Gray•Duffy Attorney Successfully Defends Apartment Complex from Liability Arising from Gang Shooting

March 2005

Michael
S. Eisenbaum
from Gray•Duffy’s Encino office obtained
a favorable ruling on a motion for summary judgment in a recent case involving
a gang shooting.

On September 19, 2003, at approximately
12:30 in the afternoon, the plaintiff, Andre Hill-Bey, was in his vehicle
exiting the parking area of defendants’ apartment building through
an electronic gate. The assailant, a Crip gang member, was standing just
outside the gate and suddenly pulled out a handgun, firing three shots
at the plaintiff, striking him three times. He was seriously wounded but
survived the attack. Approximately nine days prior to this attack, the
plaintiff had come to the aid of his step daughter at the apartment complex,
who had been threatened by gang members. Although the gang members had
disbursed by the time Mr. Bey arrived, he shouted threats to other gang
members in the area and issued a challenge to the ones who had threatened
his step-daughter. Based upon the investigation by the Compton Sheriff’s
Department, the shooting of the plaintiff was in retaliation for the challenge
the plaintiff issued on the earlier occasion.

The plaintiff sued the owners of the
apartment complex on theories of premises liability and general negligence,
contended that the Defendants’ apartment complex owed a duty to
the plaintiff to provide armed security guards to protect tenants and
guests entering and exiting the property. It was the lack of any security
personnel that allegedly allowed the gang member to stand and wait for
the plaintiff to exit and then shoot him. On behalf of the owners of the
apartment complex, Mr. Eisenbaum filed a motion for summary judgment (MSJ)
contending that the apartment complex did not owe or breach a duty to
protect the plaintiff, and that even if there was such a duty, it was
not the proximate or legal cause of the plaintiff’s injuries.

In opposition to the motion, the plaintiff
argued that the area was a high crime neighborhood in which violent crime
was foreseeable, and therefore, the apartment complex owed a duty to protect
the plaintiff who was a guest at the premises. The plaintiff referenced
other apartments in the area which provided armed security guards, the
fact that the Defendants previously employed live security guards who
were stationed in the exact location where the subject shooting occurred,
as well as numerous instances of other crimes occurring in and around
the Defendants’ apartment complex. Plaintiff contended that the
presence of security guards would have deterred or prevented the attack.

At the hearing of the motion, Mr. Eisenbaum
argued that the law does not require the apartment complex to act as the
police or to be the personal body guards for the plaintiff who created
a dangerous situation for himself as a result of his prior actions. Mr.
Eisenbaum further argued that the plaintiff was shot solely because of
the challenge he issued to the gang on the earlier encounter. The evidence
established that such an act by the plaintiff was almost certain to bring
about retaliation against the plaintiff. Plaintiff admitted he was aware
that his actions would result in retaliation, but returned to the apartment
complex anyway.

The court agreed with Mr. Eisenbaum
on all issues and granted the motion. The court found that the Defendants
did not owe or breach a duty to protect the plaintiff, and that there
was no causal connection between the conduct of the Defendants and the
injuries sustained by the plaintiff. Thus, judgment was rendered in favor
of the Defendants on all causes of action, with costs awarded to the Defendants.

Andre Hill-Bey v. Park Village
Partners, et al., Los Angeles Superior Court Case No. TC017966

Please Note: This article is necessarily general in nature and is not a substitute for legal advice with respect to any particular case. Readers should consult with an attorney before taking any action affecting their interests.