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Wrongful Death Suit Reinstated Against Property Management Company

The Mississippi Supreme Court recently reinstated a lawsuit against a property management company for the death of a tenant. Galanis v. CMA Management Company, 2012-CT-01757-SCT is a lawsuit by the family members of a Mississippi State University student, who was found murdered in his apartment on March 7, 2008.

The day before he was found dead, the student had complained to management of the apartment complex that he suspected his roommate had stolen money from his bank account.    The apartment management company had knowledge about the roommates prior violent past, which included threatening other tenants.   When the roommate went to renew his lease, after prior threats against other tenants, the management company declined to renew the lease.  However, an attorney for the roommate contested and the management company decided to renew the lease after all.    However, no background check was done, which was a policy of the management company.    The apartment introduced the student and the roommate and suggested they live together, never disclosing the roommates violent history to the student.  Ultimately, the roommate was convicted of the murder of the student.    The family of the victim sued the management company under Mississippi premises liability law, in which an owner owes a duty of care to an occupant.

Premises Liability Law in Mississippi

As the Mississippi Supreme Court noted in its opinion, the first step in determining whether the management company owed a duty to its tenant is to define  the status of the occupant. Land entrants can be invitees, licensees, or trespassers. In this case, the student was an invitee as a tenant who signed a lease to occupy the property.

Next, the court must look at the duty owed to invitees under Mississippi law. The owner may have a duty to protect a tenant from reasonably foreseeable injuries that are caused by a third party. Criminal acts can break the chain of owner’s duty to the tenant, but only if the criminal act is not reasonably foreseeable by the owner. If the owner knows or should know of the third party’s violent nature or that an “atmosphere of violence exists on the premises” (quoting Double Quick, Inc. v. Lymas, 50 So.3d 292, 298 (2011)), the owner may still owe the tenant a duty of care despite the fact that a third party committed a criminal act. In this case, the court found that plaintiff in this case presented sufficient evidence to survive a motion for summary judgment on the issue that the management company may have owed the student a duty of care as an invitee.

Injured On Someone Else’s Property? Contact Us Today.

If you or a loved one has been injured on the property of another, you may be entitled to compensation. Contact the Law Offices of Judy Guice in Biloxi today at (228) 374-9787 for your free consultation. We are prepared to assist you.

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