Sexual Attack in Walnut Creek Apartment Complex: What is the Landlord’s Responsibility?
A young woman was sexually assaulted at a Walnut Creek apartment complex on September 16, 2010. According to the Contra Costa Sheriff’s office, three similar assaults have occurred in the same apartment complex in the past four months.
As a lawyer who practices personal injury litigation in the Oakland Alameda area, this report caught my attention due to the number of attacks on the premises. In this unfortunate case four women have been assaulted in the same Walnut Creek apartment complex within four months. Legal questions will arise whether the owner of the apartment complex and/or the professional management company which is responsible for managing the property bears any legal responsibility for these attacks.
In California, a property owner has a legal duty to keep his premises safe. This includes the legal duty to protect people on the property from foreseeable criminal acts of those entering the premises.
California law holds that an owner of a business which would include an apartment complex must use reasonable care to protect those on the property from another person’s criminal conduct if the owner can reasonably anticipate such conduct. Prior similar acts or other indications of violent criminal assaults may put the property owner on notice that special precautions need to be taken for the safety of those on the premises. This may include the use of security guards, or less costly measures such as improved lighting or security gates.
Not all crime can be prevented, but apartment owners can and should also keep their tenants’ safety in mind. Where there have been sexual attacks, appropriate steps should be taken to reduce the risk of future attacks. As an Oakland personal injury attorney, my hope is that all business owners and property owners take the safety of their patrons and tenants seriously and do all that is necessary to keep their properties safe.
Oakland Tribune, Fourth sexual assault at Walnut Creek apartment complex, September 16, 2010