Property owners generally have a duty to exercise care to protect invitees from dangerous conditions on the premises. In a January 28, 2021 Maryland wrongful death case, the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland explained the circumstances under which a property owner may be held liable for the criminal acts of a third party.
The lawsuit was brought by the estates of two teenagers who were shot and killed by an unknown assailant while standing outside of an apartment building owned by the defendant. Prior to the teens’ deaths, the defendant had known of prior violent crimes occurring outside of the apartment buildings, common areas, and parking areas. The plaintiffs claimed that in light of the history of crime at the apartment complex, the defendant was negligent in failing to take sufficient security measures to protect them from criminal activity at the complex. After the circuit court granted summary judgment in favor of the defendant, the plaintiffs appealed.
In a negligence action in Maryland, the plaintiff bears the burden of proving that the defendant was under a duty to protect the plaintiff from injury, that the defendant breached that duty, and that the plaintiff suffered actual injury or loss as a proximate result of the defendant’s breach of that duty.