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A Stabbing Pain
by Ron Davis
Two victims of stabbings that occurred in the parking lot of a Georgia shopping center have failed in their attempt to hold the center's owner liable for the crime.
The shopping center, located in Atlanta, is owned by Habersham Ventures, Ltd., and the stabbings resulted in serious knife wounds to the two victims. The victims sued the shopping center, claiming they did not receive adequate protection from criminal acts.
Details of the incident show that the two victims, another man, and two women had just left a nightclub located in the shopping center and were walking to their car when they were accosted by three men. After words were exchanged between the two parties, one of the men in the second party pulled a knife and stabbed the first victim in the back of the head. As the fight progressed, the other victim received a stab wound in the back.
The center's parking lot was lighted, but the victims had parked their car in a darker section of the lot. There was no security guard on duty at the time of the stabbings.
Georgia law states that a landlord has a duty to prevent "foreseeable" criminal attacks on his property. In other words, the duty to guard against crime arises when, based on experience, the landlord has reason to anticipate criminal acts.
The shopping center's leasing agent in this case pointed out, however, that he did not know of any property crimes or crimes against persons committed at the shopping center.
Moreover, both stabbing victims admitted that they considered the area in which the shopping center is located to be safe at the time of the incident.
A Georgia appellate court dismissed the charges against the shopping center, explaining, "First, the representative of the shopping center was not aware of any reports of crimes at the property.... Second, both victims acknowledged that they were familiar with the area, had no knowledge of prior criminal incidents in the area, and did not consider the area dangerous.... The two victims were thus unable to show superior knowledge on behalf of the shopping center owner of the danger that they might encounter." (Habersham Venture, Ltd. v. Breedlove, 535 S.E.2d 788 [Ga.App. 2000])
Decision: July 2000
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