When selecting an apartment, most renters take into account factors like price, location, size, and amenities. Depending on personal circumstances like credit rating, many must also consider their likelihood of being accepted. For some, the approachability of the on-site management is an important consideration, but most people don’t give much thought to who actually owns and manages the property, if it’s not someone they’ll interact with on a daily basis.
Residential landlords come in all sizes and sorts, from the local couple with a guesthouse to rent, to large companies with expansive catalogues of multi-family residences. In some complexes, typically condominiums, different units within the same building may even have completely separate ownership arrangements.
In some ways, a larger company might seem like the safer bet when selecting a landlord. After all, a business that exists to manage residential properties ought to be well-informed on landlords’ legal responsibilities to their tenants, and have the budget and policies in place to fulfill those responsibilities.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t always work out that way. Large, wealthy companies do not have the excuse of ignorance or insolvency that the couple with the guesthouse might if they fail to meet their obligations, yet they have an incentive to pad their profits by skimping on security precautions that are vital to their tenants’ safety.
JAMCO Properties, Inc. is one of the larger residential property management companies, currently operating in the Atlanta area, the Jonesboro area, and the surrounding counties including Clayton and DeKalb. Companies like JAMCO know that tenants won’t quietly accept being denied water or electricity, but what about property security? Well, the law requires landlords to protect tenants and guests from known threats, including criminal violence, and JAMCO for one has already run afoul of Georgia’s courts for its negligent security practices.
If you’ve been a victim of negligent security conditions on a JAMCO property, or anywhere else for that matter, the Stoddard Firm may be able to help.
The Bradford Ridge Case
JAMCO Properties, Inc. came under scrutiny in 2015, when a man was shot in the course of a home robbery and later died in the parking lot of his apartment complex, the JAMCO-owned Bradford Ridge Apartment Homes. In itself, the incident might seem unremarkable, albeit tragic, but it’s legally significant precisely because of how commonplace such tragedies appear to be on JAMCO properties.
Just two years earlier at the same complex, a 13-year-old boy was shot by an armed robber in front of his sister’s apartment. According to witnesses, two men drove up to the front of the apartment and demanded the keys to the sister’s truck. She complied, but when the truck wouldn’t start immediately, one of them became agitated and began firing a shotgun at the brother and sister. They ran, but the brother was hit and died in his sister’s arms. Both robbers fled the scene, leaving the truck behind.
The first shooting might not have been foreseeable, but it should have alerted JAMCO to the threat of robbery-motivated gun violence on and around the property. Because of JAMCO’s failure to respond with adequate security measures, the second victim’s family was able to sue the company successfully for $10 million dollars in damages.
There May Be A Similar Pattern On Other JAMCO Properties
Unfortunately for everyone living in JAMCO-owned complexes, the company’s security issues may not be limited to a single property. As one example, Laurel Pointe, another JAMCO property directly across the street from Bradford Ridge, has a similar crime pattern of robbery-motivated shootings. In fact, it was testimony on the unsafe conditions from residents of both complexes that contributed to the ruling against JAMCO in the Bradford Ridge case.
Nor are these incidents endemic to a particular area where JAMCO happens to own property. Crime commonly clusters around particular properties rather than general areas, based on where management is most welcoming or indifferent to it, and this is exactly what seems to be happening at JAMCO complexes across DeKalb, Clayton, and South Fulton.
Stratford Arms Apartments, another complex owned by JAMCO, suffered three arson attempts in 2013 before a suspect was arrested. The following year, a man and woman were shot in yet another JAMCO-owned apartment complex, the Woods at Southlake. The man and woman were both hospitalized, and the perpetrator was never caught. Stratford Arms and the Woods at Southlake are both about three miles from Bradford Ridge, already far enough for a significant difference in crime patterns, but some even more problematic JAMCO properties are much farther removed, most notably Aspen Pointe.
Some JAMCO Properties Have an Even Worse Criminal History Than Bradford Ridge
JAMCO’s Aspen Pointe apartment complex lies some 35 miles north of Laurel Pointe and Bradford Ridge, and it has also been the site of armed robberies, burglaries, rape, and murder. Back in 2009, a serial armed robber was apprehended after following a woman into her Aspen Pointe apartment, robbing her at knifepoint, and then tracking muddy footprints back to his own home. In spite of his mother warning him to run when the police arrived, he was caught and subsequently pled guilty. His criminal career had centered so closely on Aspen Pointe apartments that several victims and witnesses from the complex were able to positively identify him from a variety of separate incidents.
Two years later, a man knocked on an acquaintance’s Aspen Pointe apartment door and demanded drugs from him at gunpoint. The target’s sister called the police, who surrounded the building. During the ensuing hostage standoff, the gunman raped the sister, and then fell asleep, allowing the police to enter and arrest him.
When a location harbors the illegal drug trade such was alleged in the “hostage standoff incident”, it’s almost always a correlating factor with other crime. Whatever the reason, the crime pattern has continued at Aspen Pointe. Two more years after the hostage standoff, a pair of bodies were found in the woods next to the complex, of a father and son. They are believed to have died there in a murder-suicide.
Yet another two years later, in 2015, the same year as the Bradford Ridge case, the residents of Aspen Pointe were still being freely and brazenly targeted by burglars. One woman reported catching a burglar in the act while up late with her young daughter. Thankfully, the burglar left their apartment without violence when he saw them. He wasn’t bothered enough by the interruption to stop his door-to-door spree of break-ins, however. When he was finally apprehended at a neighboring complex, he attacked and bit the arresting officer.
Security Conditions Do Not Seem to Be Improving for JAMCO’s Residents
The settlement for the murder at Bradford Ridge should have been an overdue wakeup call for JAMCO Properties, leading to improved security at all of their complexes. Was it? Well:
As recently as May 2019, a tenant of JAMCO’s Willow Lake Apartment Homes interrupted a burglar who then fled and wandered the surrounding area holding a stolen shotgun, until he was shot, non-fatally, by police.
Also in May of 2019, JAMCO’s Cascade Glen Apartment Homes complex saw two men draw on each other and fire, leaving one of them dead. The other was never caught. Much like the 2015 murder at Bradford Ridge, this one closely resembled a previous crime at the same location. In June of 2016, two men living at Cascade Glen were shot and hospitalized, one with a wound to the chest, the other to the head. Once again, JAMCO failed to respond and prepare adequately for likely future events.
Over in Decatur, in November of 2017, another car theft, strikingly reminiscent of the one at Bradford Ridge, took place at another JAMCO property — the Village at Wesley Chapel. No one was shot this time, but the thief did make off with victim’s truck, kidnapping her baby brother in the process. When the thief refused to allow her to retrieve her brother, the woman clung to the outside of the vehicle as it sped away, until the thief managed to shake her off. He later abandoned the baby, unharmed, at a nearby convenience store, but was never identified.
This complex too had a history of security problems before the carjacking, but of a different kind. In 2012, two security guards who were supposed to be protecting the Village at Wesley Chapel instead shot and killed an innocent teenager in front of a neighboring residence while impersonating police officers. They later claimed that the 18-year-old new father was “walking toward them aggressively.” The victim was unarmed and on his way to confront a group of teenage girls in a nearby vehicle, who had just arrived at his home to fight his younger sister.
What to Do If Your Apartment Complex Is Not Adequately Protected
Inappropriate behavior by security personnel and failure to respond to similar past crimes are not the only reasons a landlord may be responsible for violent crimes on a property. Your landlord may also be liable for the actions of criminals if those actions were made possible by clear security flaws that the landlord knew about in advance.
Examples of such security flaws include:
- Damaged or missing locks
- Broken cameras
- Gates left propped open
- Inadequate lighting in common areas
- Providing housing to felons and/or known violent criminals
Other than locks on the doors of individual dwellings, there is no universal, agreed-upon standard for how much preemptive security a landlord must provide when no crimes have yet occurred. That said, it’s more than reasonable to expect already installed security systems to be maintained in good working order, especially if they were among the benefits of the complex that were advertised to you before the signing of your lease.
The Stoddard Firm Has Extensive Experience in Landlord Negligent Security
While a property owner’s duty to provide a safe environment is clear under the law, individual cases all have their own unique complexities. Further, many apartment complex owners are experts at muddying the waters in any way possible, and preying on people’s willingness to believe that crime is inevitable.
If you or a loved one have been the victim of a violent crime that could have been foreseen and prevented by JAMCO or another property management company, it’s crucial to have an expert of your own at your side. The passionate, seasoned professionals at The Stoddard firm have years of experience in proving landlord liability in negligent security in ways that both judges and juries can understand and recognize.
We know nothing can bring back a lost family member, erase a life-changing injury, or restore your peace of mind, and we know how frustrating it can be when the direct perpetrator of a crime can’t be found or has no assets with which to make amends. Even so, holding landlords responsible for their negligence can go a long way toward getting your life back on track.
We’ll work with you to establish the foreseeability of the crime, and the concrete ways your landlord failed to provide the necessary security to prevent tragedies like yours, to make sure you get the full compensation you deserve.
Reach out today via our online chat function, or at 678-RESULT, for a completely free consultation on your unique case and how we can help.
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.