Recently in California, a jury awarded a woman $5.4 million at the conclusion of a civil lawsuit in which she alleged that negligent security by a nightclub contributed to a sexual assault committed against her by a staffer.
The jury in that case assessed the club with 40 percent liability, while the alleged rapist was assessed with 60 percent liability.
Had this case unfolded in New York, our personal injury attorneys know the club or premises owner would have likely paid nothing, as current law holds that any landlord deemed 50 percent or less liable for the injury must only pay the equitable share based on relative culpability. The only time this kind of limitation on liability isn’t imposed is when the other contributing party (i.e., the rapist) can’t be found.
In most civil lawsuits involving sexual assault, juries are likely to find that the rapist was at least 50 percent, if not 100 percent, liable for the victim’s injury. This in effect frees the landlord from liability – even when the landlord or premises owner failed to maintain adequate security that contributed to the assault.
A newly-proposed state bill, S81-2013 (A411-2013) would change that by amending Section 1602 of New York’s Civil Practice Law and Rules.
The law would address the issue of negligent security as it relates to landlord culpability when tenants or guests suffer an attack.
As the bill’s author noted, justice for the victim in the civil case is dependent upon whether law enforcement authorities are able to identify the perpetrator. So for example, if a tenant is raped in a building where security was negligent, but the rapist is never found, the tenant can sue the landlord with no limits on liability because there is no other person considered contributing to the liability. However, in cases where the rapist is identified, the victim is unlikely to collect from the landlord because his or her culpability will be reduced by however much the perpetrator is found liable.
So two landlords who display the same amount of negligence in building security may end up paying very different sums in a liability case, with one possibly walking away without paying a dime.
What S81-2013 seeks to do is close this gap. It would in effect allow that the limited allocation of liability would no longer apply to individuals who own, manage and/or control property or provides security for the property when the allegation is that they failed to provide proper security as required by law, rules or regulations.
New York landlords are required under Section 235-b of the New York Real Property Law to provide “warranty of security” to tenants in order for the building to be considered habitable.
If passed, the bill would take place immediately.
Unfortunately, however, an older version of this measure failed to gain adequate support in the state senate last year. The current version was referred to judiciary in January of 2014.
The Law Offices of Nicholas Rose, PLLC offers free consultations. Call 1-877-313-7673.
Bill S81-2013, Referred to Judiciary, Jan. 8, 2014
More Blog Entries:
“Attractive Nuisance” Doctrine & Child Injuries in New York, Jan. 24, 2014, New York City Negligent Security Lawyer Blog