Most people would consider feeling safe in one’s home or apartment to be a high priority. If that safety is violated, whether through an attack or inadequate security, most people would look to the building owner or manufacturer for a failure to maintain a safe living environment. However, in Robert Sanchez v. Wilmette Real Estate and Management Co., et al., No. 1-08-0248, the Illinois court ruled that the building owner and manufacturer did not owe the plaintiff a duty to protect him from being attacked on its premises.
At the time of the attack Sanchez was living at an apartment complex owned by BHC5900 and managed by Wilmette Real Estate and Management Company. The plaintiff was walking towards his apartment when he was attacked by an unknown assailant who had been hiding in a vacant apartment within the complex.
Sanchez accused the defendants of leaving vacant units unlocked, a practice that made it easy for his assailant to hide undetected prior to the attack. However, the defendants denied this practice and further denied any breached duty towards the plaintiff. A trial court agreed with the defendants and granted their motion for summary judgment, dismissing them from the Illinois inadequate security lawsuit.
Under Illinois law, a landlord generally does not have a duty to protect its tenants from criminal actions by outside parties. The exception to this rule is if the landlord undertakes to maintain a higher level of duty towards his/her tenants. For example, if a landlord voluntary provides security measures to its residents then it can be held liable for inadequately protecting its tenants.
Essentially, if a landlord puts security measures in place to protect his/her tenants than he/she has a duty to maintain those security systems. If the landlord negligently maintains building security that was voluntarily provided then he/she can be held liable for a third party’s criminal acts if the violence arose as a result of the failed security system. However, oddly enough, if the landlord does not undertake any security measures then he/she may be shielded from any liability by third party violence on his/her property.
Because Sanchez was not able to show that the building owner or management company had ever promised to provide or maintain any sort of building security the case was dismissed. The court found that the defendants did not have any contractual obligation to provide security to their tenants and therefore were not negligent.
Kreisman Law Offices has been handling Illinois premise liability lawsuits for over 30 years, serving those areas in and around Cook County, including Berwyn, Chicago, Arlington Heights, and Orland Park.
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