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I have been writing a series of Georgia negligent security law posts, talking
about when a Georgia property owner might be liable in, say, a Savannah
hotel rape lawsuit, or a Marietta restaurant parking lot assault lawsuit.
Yesterday I began discussing how a victim would go about proving that
the landlord could “foresee” the crime – which is what
Georgia law requires in order to hold a property owner or property manager
liable for failing to keep people safe on the property. I talked about
a common misconception among lawyers – the notion that a plaintiff
must prove other similar incidents occurred in order to hold the premises
owner liable.

In fact, under Georgia law, the plaintiff does not have to show that other
similar incidents, such as other rapes or assaults or shootings, occurred.
In practical terms, the lawyer often does offer evidence of other prior
attacks. For example, a lawyer representing a Decatur apartment rape victim
may want to introduce evidence that other assaults or violent attacks
occurred at or at least near the apartment complex; an attorney representing
the victim of a violent attack at an Atlanta hotel may choose to offer
evidence that other hotel guests had been attacked.

Today I want to talk about what constitutes a “similar incident”
that a plaintiff may show in order to prove that the defendant should
have foreseen a criminal attack. According to Georgia’s law, the
incident causing the plaintiff’s injury “must be substantially
similar in type to the previous criminal activities on or near the premises
so that a reasonable person would take ordinary precautions to protect
his invitees against the risks posed by that type of activity.”
McNeal v. Days Inn of America, Inc., 230 Ga.App. 786, 498 S.E.2d 294, 98 FCDR 1084, cert. denied (1998) (emphasis
in original).

The courts have been very clear that substantially similar does not mean
identical. “In determining whether a prior criminal act is substantially
similar, we note that ‘substantially similar does not mean identical.'”
Shoney’s Inc. v. Hudson, 218 Ga.App. 171, 460 S.E.2d 809 (1995)
(emphasis added). For example, it does not matter “whether a weapon
was used”; the question is “whether the prior crimes should
have put an ordinarily prudent person on notice that the [invitees] were
facing increased risks.” Id. The incident only has to “be
sufficient to attract the [proprietor’s] attention to the dangerous
condition which resulted in the litigated incident.’ (Citation and
punctuation omitted.) Matt [v. Days Inns of America, Inc.], 212 Ga.App.
at 794, 443 S.E.2d 290.” Shoney’s Inc. v. Hudson, 218 Ga.App.
171, 460 S.E.2d 809 (1995) (emphasis added). See also
Sturbridge Partners v. Walker, 267 Ga. 785, 786, 482 S.E.2d 339 (1997);
Wade v. Findlay Management, Inc., 253 Ga.App. 688, 560 S.E.2d 283 (2002); Agnes Scott College v. Clark,
273 Ga. App. 619, 616 S.E.2d 468 (2005), cert. denied (2005);
Confetti Atlanta, Ltd. v. Gray, 202 Ga.App. 241, 414 S.E.2d 265 (1991), cert. denied (1992); Bayshore
Company v. Pruitt, 175 Ga.App. 679, 334 S.E.2d 213, cert. denied (1985);
Baker v. Simon Property Group, Inc., 273 Ga.App. 406, 614 S.E.2d 793 (2005).

an attorney representing a Duluth parking lot shooting victim probably will want to show that other violent or potentially violent crimes
– such as robberies, shootings, home burglaries — occurred
on or near the property. The victim will not have to offer evidence that
other people were shot in that very parking lot, however.


Lee’s peers have named her a Georgia SuperLawyer every year for two decades.