It is the law in New Mexico that a business has a duty to protect its patrons or tenants from the harmful acts of third persons if, by the exercise of reasonable care, the business could have discovered that such acts were being done, or about to be done, and could have protected against the injury. As the risk of danger increases, so too does the amount of care to be exercised by a premises owner or manager. When a business knows of or should know of criminal activity on its property or in its neighborhood, it must act reasonably under the circumstances. Unfortunately, owners of convenience stores, mini-marts, bars, clubs, apartment complexes, multi-housing units, and other similar facilities many times decide to put their profits over your safety. Inadequate security can allow people to fall victim to tortious or criminal acts, such as assault, battery, murder, robbery, rape, and cause great harm and injury. If you or a loved one has been harmed as a result of the inadequate security of at an apartment complex or other business premise, lawyer Matthew Vance of the Law Office of Matthew Vance, P.C., can help.Businesses and unsafe apartment complexes can be magnets that attract a criminal element, which sets up innocent victims for injury and harm.
When someone becomes a victim of a violent crime – whether someone is shot, sexually assaulted, or mugged – it is easy to look at and blame the criminal. Sometimes, however, there may have been another person or entity that created a situation that allowed these acts to take place. Premises owners have the duty to use ordinary care in maintaining safe premises, which includes adequate security. This means, when there is a foreseeable risk of danger to visitors to or occupants of the premises, the owner must act reasonably to prevent that risk from becoming reality. These risks include negligent, intentionally tortious, or criminal acts of a third party. As the risk of danger increases, so does the amount of care to be exercised by the owner (New Mexico UJI 13-1320). Local laws or ordinances may set the minimal standards for safety or the minimum standards may come from trade or industry standards. In some cases there are not specific requirements for what adequate security measures must be taken, we must then look to the individual circumstances of the case and what the premises owner or management knew or should have known about the risk of harm to its business invitees or customers.When people try to pass the buck and avoid responsibility for their actions or inactions, we work to hold them accountable.
It can be easy for owners or managers of apartment complexes, bars, or other premises to deny and pass on responsibility when a third party causes someone harm. However, property owners have a well-recognized duty to exercise reasonable, ordinary care in the monitoring, maintenance, and operation of their premises. This duty requires they act as an ordinarily prudent person would in the same or similar circumstances; for example, a careful owner of an apartment complex or convenience store. For an owner of apartment complex, this may include ensuring apartment doors lock properly; windows and other entry points are secure; surveillance cameras; or hired security, especially if the complex is located in a high crime area. Essentially, there must be reasonable measures taken to ensure the safety of those entering the premises. Convenience stores have additional security measures required of them by law (NMAC 11.5.6) to reduce crime and victimization. New Mexico requires that convenience stores provide their stores with security surveillance, alarm systems, exterior lighting, and other measures with the hopes of protecting employees and patrons of New Mexico convenience stores. If the owner fails to act reasonably and provide adequate security measures to a property, the owner has breached their duty and should be held responsible for the harm they cause.
It is unquestionable that when apartment complexes or convenience stores are located in high crime areas, their residents and patrons are at a higher risk of becoming victim to tortious or criminal acts of others. Owners of these premises have a duty to be aware of these heightened risks. When this is the case, it is reasonable to expect these owners to put in place measures to mitigate or reduce the likelihood of harm or injury befalling those living in their apartment complexes or shopping in their convenience store, or mini mart. It is common to find these complexes or stores located in low-income areas. Many of the people living in these areas rely on Section 8 housing, or other subsidies to help them live, which often leaves them with few options on where to live. Unfortunately, owners of complexes and housing units in these areas may take advantage of their tenants in these situations and take shortcuts that create unsafe environments and promote crime, and eventually injury. Management of complexes of this kind may suggest to their residents, “If you don’t like it here, then move.” As convenient as they may like it to be, this simply may not be possible for many and does not make it okay for owners and managers of complexes to let safety and security go to the wayside. High crime does not remove responsibility from owners and managers of apartment complexes, convenience stores, or other premises – on the contrary, the amount of care to be exercised increases.
Far too often, inadequacies in security are a result of greed – where dollar signs become more important than people. When owners of apartment complexes or other premises make decisions that place people at risk to save a few dollars, it isn’t right – it isn’t fair. Some apartment complexes are a prime example. Many apartment complexes and other facilities have policies and procedures in place that motivate property managers and leasing agents to maintain high occupancy. Apartment complexes are profit driven. Occupancy rates must be maintained at certain levels. In the push for profits some apartment management companies my set "required" occupancy rates that will drive a manager or leasing agent to effectively rent to anyone and to gloss over security threats or crime rates. Apartment managers or leasing agents that don’t meet the required occupancy rates are under threat of getting fired. The apartment complex will spend money on nice landscaping and colorful banners that tell tenants that they love them. All the while a cancer of crime grows in and around of the complex and the predators are living with their prey in the complex. When corruption and greed create unsafe situations, attorney Matthew Vance is here to hold them responsible and accountable.Premises liability in a comparative negligence state
Cases of this nature are based in a theory of negligence. To prove fault, a plaintiff must prove duty, breach, actual harm, and that the harm was caused by the defendant’s breach. In New Mexico, we have a pure comparative negligence system. This means, when multiple parties share responsibility for harm caused, they are all held responsible to the degree to which they have caused harm. In premises liability cases where inadequate security has contributed to harm caused, comparative negligence allows responsibility to be attributed to those who need to be held responsible. In other words, when a premises owner is partly responsible for harm occurring, however large or small that may be, they are that percentage responsible for the damages incurred by the victim. That said, the law recognizes that the proportionate fault of the property owner or manager is not necessarily reduced by the increasingly wrongful conduct of the third party. The property owner is responsible for their actions and cannot simply blame the criminal, particularly in situations where the property owner knew of the risk to others and did nothing. Damages in premises liability cases, including inadequate security cases, are typically monetary. Injured parties may be entitled monetary, or money damages for past and future medical expenses, pain and suffering, permanent disability, permanent scarring or disfigurement, and other damages as a result of injuries resulting from inadequate security.If inadequate security has led you or a loved one to be harmed, contact Matthew Vance
If you or someone you love has been harmed as a result of inadequate security of a premises, contact personal injury attorney Matthew Vance to help you assert your rights and pursue your claims. We have had success pursuing cases for our clients who have been injured as a result of inadequate security and hold negligent premises owners responsible for their behavior.
Matthew Vance is a lifelong resident of New Mexico who works to make this state and the homes we live in safer places to live. This includes when your home may be an apartment or other tenant living situation. He represents injured individuals in Albuquerque, Gallup, Espanola, Taos, Tucumcari, Roswell, Farmington, Santa Fe, Las Vegas, and other cities across the state. Call us at (505) 242-6267 or contact us online to set up a free consultati