On Thursday, December 5, 2019, F&P attorneys Imoh Akpan and G. Calvin Awkward, III, successfully achieved summary judgment in a negligent security/wrongful death matter located in Prince George’s County. The case involved a triple murder in an apartment complex. The killer was a known assailant as well as the ex-boyfriend of one of the tenants/decedents. The ex-boyfriend had also been barred from the apartment complex.
The events in the incident transpired as follows. The ex-boyfriend was let into the apartment by the ex-girlfriend’s mother. There was a family gathering going on, and the ex-boyfriend stayed and mingled with the family. After most of the family members left, the ex-boyfriend shot and killed his ex-girlfriend, her mother, and another person. The legal issues were (1) whether there was a duty owed since the murders happened inside the apartment as opposed to the common areas and (2) whether the alleged breach of duty – broken locks on the front door of the apartment building – was the proximate cause of the murders. While there was a perceived dispute about the functionality of the lock to the decedents’ apartment building, there was no dispute that the lock to the front door of their apartment was in working order.
Under Hemmings v. Pelham Wood, LLP, 375 Md. 522 (2003), the fact that an injury happened in the leased premises as opposed to the common area does not absolve or relieve the landlord from its general duty to take reasonable security measures. A plaintiff can claim that failure to remedy a defect in the common area led to an injury in the leased premises. In addition to alleged faulty locks on the front door of the apartment building, the plaintiffs argued that the owner/property manager failed to enforce our barring notice against the ex-boyfriend. Ultimately, the trial court found that there was no proximate causation because even if the ex-boyfriend had entered the apartment building due to the alleged faulty locks, the decedents were still “safe” inside their apartment until they voluntarily let him in.