A state court of appeals ruled that a trial court erred in granting summary judgment to an apartment management company and contract security company when the plaintiff showed proof of prior criminal incidents and statements that her attacker gained entry to the property through a broken security gate.
Eina Walker resided at a gated apartment complex featuring security guards, security cameras and security lights. Each building required key card access. However, the back gate to the complex was broken for a long period of time, and anyone could gain access to the property without a key card. Walker was attacked in the hallway of her apartment by two men who forced her into her apartment where they raped and robbed her.
Walker sued the property management company alleging that it breached a duty to repair the premises and keep the premises safe by providing adequate security. The property management company filed a third-party complaint against the company that provided security for the complex for breach of contract. The property manager and security company both moved for summary judgment arguing that Walker failed to prove that the attack was foreseeable and failed to prove the broken security gate was the means that the attackers used to enter the property. The trial court agreed and granted the defendants' motions for summary judgment. Walker appealed.
The court of appeals reversed the trial court's grant of summary judgment in favor of the defendants. The court held that prior incidents of violence on the property were sufficient to alert the landlord of dangerous conditions on the property.
In this case, Walker presented prior reports of criminal activities that occurred on the property and the statement of one of the attackers in which he said that he entered the property through the broken gate on the day of the attack. Further, the court of appeals found that whether a criminal attack is reasonably foreseeable is generally a jury question. Therefore, the trial court erred in granting the defendants' motions for summary judgment.
The court of appeals rejected the defendants' argument that Walker's attack was not foreseeable because the prior criminal incidents shown by the Walker were burglaries and not sexual assaults. Evidence was sufficient to support Walker's contention that the attack was caused by the broken security gate.