Apartment Landlords Can Be Sued for Gun Violence Against Children

Atlanta’s children live with the constant threat of gun violence, and many will never get the chance to grow up because of it.

Dozens of people aged 18 and younger were killed in shootings in Metropolitan Atlanta this past year alone. The danger isn’t limited to mass shootings at school or in public places. In fact, most of these deaths from 2021 occurred individually or in small groups, nearly half of them in or near homes.

As grieving and worried parents know all too well, low-income communities bear the worst of this ongoing tragedy. Landlords treat home safety as a luxury item, investing in it only when they plan to charge rent far above what the average family can afford. Meanwhile, they encourage the myth that low-income people, and especially low-income people of color, are the cause of violent crime and therefore impossible to protect from it.

This practice is not only cruel and based on faulty logic, it’s legally negligent. Although few survivors know it, it is possible to hold landlords financially accountable for the violence they enable.

An 8-Year-Old Boy Was Shot in an Atlanta Apartment Last November

Kayden Jones was one of the youngest (though not the youngest) of the Atlanta children lost to gun violence in 2021. Not long after his family moved into the Brentwood Heights apartment complex on Alison Ct, the 8-year-old child was fatally shot inside his new home.

His death is currently believed to be accidental, and police have not released any information on who may have been holding the gun or why. However, the Jones’s downstairs neighbor says that she heard the shot, followed by a thump, and thought nothing of it at first, because gunshots are such a common occurrence in the area. This is consistent with publicly posted reviews of the complex dating back five years.

It seems very likely that the owners of this complex had abundant warning signs and every opportunity to address the threat of gun violence, but chose not to do so.

Adequate Security Is Part of a Landlord’s Responsibility to Keep Tenants Safe

People often ask why, or even how, a landlord should bear the responsibility for the violent or negligent actions of others. Aren’t shooters and negligent gun owners responsible for their own actions? Does a landlord really have the right or power to interfere with those actions?

The simple answer is that landlords are legally required to take all reasonable steps to address any known threats to their tenants’ safety. In an area where gun violence is common, it counts as a known threat. There are many effective risk-reduction techniques landlords can and should use in these situations, including:

  • Installing and maintaining security cameras, lights, and gates
  • Employing security guards
  • Evicting residents who break gun safety laws or issue violent threats
  • Creating a culture of support and non-retaliation toward residents who make good-faith reports of violence and warning signs

The responsibilities of landlords in no way detract from the responsibilities of gun owners and users. The decision to bring a civil suit against a negligent landlord does not conflict with any legal recourse available against to the individual shooter.

Suing a negligent landlord does, however, have a much better chance of producing practical, positive results than suing an individual shooter. Landlords are generally in a much better position to compensate survivors, and they have the power to improve safety for countless other families if they’re properly financially motivated to do so.

If you are one of Kayden Jones’s parents, or the parent of any other child lost to gun violence in Atlanta’s residential rental properties, reach out to the negligent security lawyers at The Stoddard Firm to learn more about your options today.

Attorney Matt Stoddard

Matt Stoddard is a professional, hardworking, ethical advocate. He routinely faces some of the nation’s largest companies and some of the world’s largest insurers – opponents who have virtually unlimited resources. In these circumstances, Mr. Stoddard is comfortable. Mr. Stoddard provides his strongest efforts to his clients, and he devotes the firm’s significant financial resources to presenting the strongest case possible on their behalf. Matt understands that his clients must put their trust in him. That trust creates an obligation for Matt to work tirelessly on their behalf, and Matt Stoddard does not take that obligation lightly. [ Attorney Bio ]

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