Columbus, GA Negligent Security Lawyer
Not too long ago, the Columbus Consolidated Government released a public report on crime in the city, boasting its lowest overall crime rate in 33 years. This claim was repeated across numerous news outlets. However, the actual content of the report paints a much more frightening picture of Columbus’s state of affairs, a picture far more familiar to the Columbus residents who live with the threat of violence every day.
While it may be true that overall crime was down in Columbus in 2017 — the final year included on the report — the operative word is “overall.” The city showed its most marked improvements in robbery and burglary. Meanwhile, rapes were up by 13% from 2016, aggravated assaults were up by 2%, and murders were up by a whopping 45%.
As of mid-June 2019, there seemed to be a small ray of hope on the murder front, with the Columbus police only being called upon to investigate 14 homicides since the beginning of the year — three fewer than the same time the previous year. Yet the city’s own assistant police chief attributed the difference to chance rather than to his department’s success, and warned that the numbers can change quickly, especially in the summer months.
Landowners in Columbus no doubt have their work cut out for them when it comes to protecting their properties, tenants, employees, and guests from violence. However, just like utilities and upkeep, providing necessary security is one of the inherent expenses of any business that involves the ownership and management of premises. A high local crime rate is no excuse for putting a property’s occupants in harm’s way. In fact, that high crime rate should serve as a warning that the property is even more in need of protection than one in a statistically safer area.
When landlords refuse to invest in security, people get hurt, and sometimes litigation is the only way to put things right, or at least as right as they ever can be after a violent crime. The lawyers at The Stoddard Firm are Georgia locals, experienced in negligent security law, familiar with the typical state of properties in Columbus, and proud to help individuals and families who’ve been harmed by preventable, violent crime.
Murders on and Around Farr Road Are out of Control
Farr Road is one of the most notoriously dangerous areas of Columbus, and for good reason. On New Year’s Day of 2019, Farr Road attained the dubious distinction of hosting Columbus’s first homicide of the year. The turnover of the calendar page was the only way in which this deadly shooting in one of Farr Road’s apartment complexes could be called a “first”; by all other measures, it was simply the latest in an ongoing string.
Less than two months earlier, police responded to a call about a shooting at a Farr Road convenience store. Within an hour of that call, they received another about a seemingly unrelated shooting five minutes away from the first. The owner of one business near the second shooting emphasized to the press that “nobody was expecting anything to happen,” though it’s hard to imagine how violence on and around Farr Road can be anything but expected by now. The same owner also described plans to combat the negative publicity with a paintball event, but made no mention of security improvements to combat future incidents.
In September of the previous year, a man was shot and killed at Hannah Heights Apartments, also on Farr Road, in what was then the second fatal shooting of the day, the third homicide of the week, and the 29th homicide of the year across Columbus. The suspect arrested for the shooting was a self-professed founding member of a local gang, which has been linked with multiple murders, armed robberies, and other crimes.
Just two months before that, a teenager was shot to death in his parked car on Farr Road. That incident clocked in as homicide number 16 in Columbus’s annual tally.
Certain Columbus Buildings Have Already Been Called Out for Fostering an Environment of Violence
Frequent, violent crime isn’t just an immutable threat that landlords in certain areas must respond to; sometimes it’s the direct result of building mismanagement.
One case of repeating violence that drew particular attention, both in court and in the eyes of local government officials, involved the Cross Keys Apartments in southeast Columbus. In July of 2014, two men and one woman were non-fatally shot during a party in the complex’s parking lot. According to police, a fight broke out when a newly arriving group of people tried to join the party in progress. One week later, another man was shot, this time fatally, at another Cross Keys party.
In the second shooting, a suspect was charged and acquitted on the grounds of self-defense. According to the admitted shooter, he was working security for the party, at the request of the host, and told the victim that he had to pat him down for weapons. The victim refused, became belligerent, and pulled out a handgun. A friend of the victim did the same and struck the shooter with the butt of his weapon. It was at this point, the shooter says, that he fired to defend himself. Although the shooting was deemed justifiable, the victim’s family was awarded $4.5 million in a negligent security case against Cross Keys, on the grounds that management had done nothing to improve security after the first shooting, except ask the police to check on the place regularly.
Soon after the second shooting, Mayor Teresa Tomlinson joined police and the management of Cross Keys in examining the property and forming a plan for improved security. The investigation identified what Mayor Tomlinson reported to be a likely cause of the property’s rash of shootings: residents running unlicensed bars out of their homes under the guise of parties. These illegal “party houses” are a concept by no means isolated to Cross Keys, and their presence can raise the risk of violent crime wherever building management allows them to operate, because private residences are not equipped to handle the increased security challenges associated with bars.
Other Buildings Have Been Left to Suffer Repeated Crimes for Much Longer
Party houses are just one of many ways crime can cluster around individual properties, so whenever one building is connected with an excess of crime, it’s always worth taking a look at the management’s policies and effectiveness.
Few Columbus buildings have been mentioned in connection with gun violence quite as alarmingly often as Eagles Trace Apartments, on Torch Hill Road. In June of 2018, two men got into a gunfight in front of the complex. Thankfully, no one was killed, but witnesses noted that the incident occurred dangerously close to where some of the complex’s children were playing.
In November of the previous year, an Eagles Trace resident was arrested and his apartment searched, revealing 10 ecstasy pills and a murder weapon associated with the shooting of a teen at another apartment complex.
Three months earlier, a man allegedly threatened a group of people outside of Eagles Trace Apartments while brandishing a stolen handgun, and then fired at one of the apartments. Five months before that, a woman was non-fatally shot inside the building itself.
Combatting crime can be difficult, but it seems unlikely that Eagles Trace’s then-owners — PF Holdings and its subsidiary, Eagles Trace LLC — were making much of an effort at providing security, considering how big an issue providing something as basic as water proved to be. According to an investigation by News 3, PF Holdings owed the city of Columbus over $460,000 in back taxes and fines, and the Columbus Water Works $105,000 in unpaid bills, as of December 2018. That’s when PF Holdings sold off Eagles Trace Apartments, in spite of liens on the property totaling upwards of $300,000.
The Water Works, which says it was never informed of the ownership change, threatened to shut off the water to Eagles Trace in January of 2019, before eventually coming to an arrangement with the new owners. Water Works representatives also allege outstanding debts from Ralston Towers, another Columbus-area property owned by PF Holdings, which has also been sued for nonpayment by local businesses providing repairs.
After seemingly collecting rent for an unknown period of time without paying basic bills or taxes, let alone addressing the security situation, PF Holdings made $9.9 million on the sale of Eagles Trace, according to Muscogee County Superior Court Clerk records.
Landlords and Business Owners Need to Be Cautious in Every Part of Columbus
It’s almost impossible to find an area of Columbus where crime isn’t a problem. Benning Hills is facing repeated home burglaries, and East Highland residents report increasing drive-by shootings and general gang activity. Oakland Park recently saw a home invasion resulting in a police chase, and a man punched to death at a barbecue in the same month.
Even the Uptown area shows repeating patterns of crime. In March of 2019, an unknown person opened fire inside the Ayden Lounge Bar and Restaurant on Broadway, wounding three people. Two months later, a man was shot in the hip at Martini’s Nightclub, also on Broadway.
Enablement by building management plays a significant role in repeating and clustering crime, but even landlords who would never consciously overlook crime on their properties need to take extra care in cities like Columbus. A landlord’s responsibility for harm that comes to people on a property is determined by whether that harm could have been foreseen, and whether steps could have been taken to prevent it. Crime in high-crime areas is by its nature predictable, so landlords are responsible for taking reasonable steps to prepare and protect tenants, employees, and guests.
The Stoddard Firm Has Successful Experts in the Often Tempestuous Field of Negligent Security
People often assume that no one has the power to stop crimes from happening, and negligent property owners encourage this attitude. The reality is that a great deal of crime is opportunistic. Simple measures like functioning gates, cameras, and adequate lighting can greatly reduce the danger to people on a property, yet many landlords guard their bottom lines by skimping on security and deflecting blame.
The passionate professionals at The Stoddard Firm have experience and proven success in explaining this issue to judges and juries, winning our clients the compensation they deserve, and holding property owners financially accountable for their indifference to tenant safety. Our Columbus negligent security lawyers take the time to learn and present the facts about how the crime occurred, what similar crimes have happened on or around the property in the past, and exactly how the landlord failed to safeguard occupants of the property for the future.
If you’ve been injured or lost a loved one to violent crime on an inadequately secured property in Columbus, give us a call today at 678-RESULT, or reach out through our online chat function for a free consultation on the details of your case.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Do I have a case?
If you’ve been injured because of someone else’s negligence, you could have a personal injury case. Every situation is different, so there’s no way to know if you have a case without consulting with a qualified personal injury attorney. If you are badly injured or a loved one has died, we are happy to speak with you and investigate the matter at no charge.
How do I pick the right attorney?
You’ll want to look for several qualities when choosing who will represent you. Your attorney should meet with you instead of sending an investigator, and he/she should be available throughout the process instead of having you consistently talk to a legal assistant. Your attorney should have a low number of cases so he/she can devote significant time to you and your case. Your attorney should have experience handling cases with facts similar to yours, and your attorney should have a proven track record with similar claims. Your attorney should also be able to devote significant money to your case so that he/she can hire experts, travel the country finding witnesses, and depose whomever is necessary to achieve justice. It’s also important to make sure your attorney is the right fit on a personal level, which is why you should take advantage of a free consultation.
What do I need to bring with me to the consultation?
For your free consultation, bring all relevant documents that you’ve collected regarding your case. If there are police reports, bills or correspondence from insurance companies, you’ll want to bring those items to the consultation so an attorney can learn as much about your case as possible.
How much time do I have to file a lawsuit?
There is a time limit on how long a person has after an injury to begin a lawsuit. This window is called a statute of limitations. For most personal injury cases in Georgia, the statute of limitations is two years from the time the injury was suffered. However, there are exceptions and subtleties that might change the amount of time you are afforded. Sometimes the period can be as short as 6 months, and other times it can be much longer than two years. Determining the statute of limitations requires a detailed analysis of the facts of your case.
What do your services cost?
A consultation with the Stoddard Law Firm is free. In most circumstances, we earn no fee unless we win your case. If your claim is successful, we take a percentage of the recovered amount.
What has to be proven in a premises liability case?
A successful premises liability claim must show that a hazardous condition exposed you to an unreasonable risk of harm and that the property owner failed to exercise reasonable care to maintain a safe premises. Common examples include slippery floors, unstable structures, broken handrails, stairs not built to code, scalding apartment shower water, natural gas explosions, electrical shocks, and improperly fenced swimming pools. There are several factors that can make or break a case, which is why it’s important to work with an experienced lawyer who can thoroughly investigate the situation.
How is negligent security different from premises liability?
Negligent security is a type of premises liability. These claims arise when a person is assaulted on someone else’s property by a third-party. Owners of apartment complexes, hotels, gas stations, and other retail establishments can sometimes be held liable if their inadequate security practices contributed to the attack. Such practices include failure to warn of prior crimes, inadequate lighting, broken access gates, broken locks, and failure to provide security guards.
How can an attorney help me?
Whether your injury was mild or severe, proving fault for premises liability can be a complex process. The standard of care owed by the property owner is made up of many factors and, in some cases, the hazardous conditions may no longer exist. A skilled premises liability attorney knows how to gather and preserve the necessary evidence – and how to defend you against accusations that you should have known about the dangerous condition.
How do I choose an attorney?
There are a lot of lawyers out there, so it’s important to select one that you feel comfortable with and who inspires confidence. Choose one who has experience with the type of claim you have, is qualified, has a good reputation in the legal community, and seems dedicated to helping you win your case.
How do I pay an attorney?
The Stoddard Firm handles litigation on a contingency basis. This means we accept a percentage of the amount we recover for you. If your claim does not have a successful resolution, we do not collect any fee. We are also pleased to offer free consultations.