When a person lives in an apartment building, what can they reasonably expect in return for the rent they pay? There are obvious answers to this question. A space in which to live and sleep. Working appliances. A dumpster or cans for their trash. A mail receptacle. Maybe a parking space is included in the rent. If you are lucky it’s not too loud and you can enjoy life. Having great neighbors or making friends is just a bonus for some people.
One thing that may not come to mind right away centers on the safety of the renters in the building. Tenants can expect a basic level of security provided by the building owner and/or property management company. Now that doesn’t mean every building should have a live security guard on duty 24/7, but it does mean that at a minimum, doors to the building should lock properly. If there is a security guard there, they should screen the people who want to come in and out. If the security guards notice something they should act on it. If locks are broken and the owner/management company becomes aware of it, they should fix it in a timely manner
There was a recent case brought by a woman who was sleeping in her Chicago Gold Coast apartment when a man entered and sexually assaulted her. How did the man get into the building in the first place? The victim stated that the man walked into the building through a security door with a malfunctioning lock.
The woman sued the owners of her building, the property management company, and a company that employs maintenance workers at the building. She alleged that tenants had notified the building staff that the deadlock latch on the security door was not working prior to the attack and that their negligence allowed the man to enter the building and then assault her.
The jury returned a verdict in favor of the plaintiff, and she received an award for her pain and suffering, loss of a normal life, and emotional distress. The jury, siding with the woman, made it clear that landlords should have basic, working safety measures in place in their buildings. They awarded her $5.4 million in damages. That is one of the largest verdicts ever for an apartment building attack in Chicago.
Their knowledge of the broken door and failure to act is what made this a case. It likely would have been a different result if the plaintiff couldn’t prove they were aware of it. It also would have been different if it was a fellow tenant who attacked her, an invited guest of a tenant or someone who broke through a locked door or window to get in. Building owners don’t have to guarantee your safety and aren’t usually responsible when someone beats good faith efforts to keep a building secure. When they fail to deliver on what they promise you or don’t take reasonable actions to fix problems, that’s when they may be liable.
We have helped a lot of people in the last 21 years who have been attacked in buildings in Chicago and elsewhere in Illinois. Not every case is a winner, but if you have any injury, it’s worth discussing. If you would like to speak with an experienced attorney for free about what happened to you, please call us any time at 312-346-5320. We can’t promise a result, but do guarantee to treat you like a family member or friend and offer honest advice about what you can do and if you have a case or not.