Double Shooting at Richland County Apartment Complex
Few details were available about an apparent domestic violence-related shooting that killed one person and seriously injured another one.
According to the Richland County Sheriff’s Department, the Columbia-Richland Fire Department discovered a man and a woman shot Thursday evening. Firefighters were initially called to an apartment building at the 1300 block of North Brickyard Road in northeast Richland County for a water leak alarm. When they entered the apartment, they found the man and the woman suffering from gunshot wounds.
Investigators are still determining the circumstances of the incident, but they believe it may be the result of domestic violence, according to the sheriff’s department. The suspect and victim had a romantic relationship.
Duty to Provide Adequate Security
Apartment and other property owners usually have a duty of reasonable care to make stairways, dog walk parks, sidewalks, gyms, and other common areas reasonably safe. A lesser duty of care might apply to individual apartment units. Owners don’t have exclusive control of apartment units. The high duty of care probably applies if the third-party crime was foreseeable. More on that below.
This duty includes a responsibility to provide adequate security. At the very least, this duty usually includes complying with known court orders. The above story mentioned that the residents of the unit where the fatal shooting occurred had a history of domestic violence. More than likely, that history included prior law enforcement contacts and possibly a protective order.
If that order required the alleged abuser to get rid of all firearms, as most such orders do, a Columbia personal injury lawyer could argue that the landowner was an agent of the court and responsible for enforcement.
A lesser duty of care applies if the victim was a licensee (person with permission to be at the complex but didn’t provide a benefit to the owner), like a guest of an apartment tenant. Usually, no duty of care applies if the victim was a trespasser (no permission and no benefit).
Frequently, these categories overlap. For example, an apartment resident who isn’t financially responsible for rent could be an invitee (permission and benefit) or licensee.
Knowledge of Hazard
Owners are liable for damages, including compensation for economic and noneconomic losses, if a Columbia personal injury lawyer proves knowledge. This evidence could be:
- Direct: Frequently, companies conduct security audits. These audits identify security gaps and other shortcomings. So, such a report is direct evidence of actual knowledge of a hazard. This evidence also suggests the landowner deliberately ignored the problem.
- Circumstantial: Constructive knowledge (should have known) could apply as well. Picture a banana peel on the floor. If the peel was yellow, it probably just dropped, so the owner probably didn’t know about it. If the peel was gritty and black, the owner should have known about it and should have picked it up.
Victim/plaintiffs must establish knowledge by a preponderance of the evidence (more likely than not). That’s one of the lowest burdens of proof in American law.380
Foreseeability of Injury
Owners shouldn’t be responsible for all shootings and other third-party crimes. But they should be responsible if they knew about the possibility of injury (foreseeability) and didn’t beef up security or otherwise respond to the threat.
Evidence of foreseeability includes the neighborhood’s crime rate, the type of business, the business’ location, and prior similar incidents at that location or a nearby location. The same standard of proof (preponderance of the evidence) applies in foreseeability matters.
Work With a Hard-Hitting Richland County Lawyer
Injury victims are entitled to significant compensation. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury lawyer in Columbia, contact the Marc Brown Law Firm. We do not charge upfront legal fees in these matters.