Firm Partner Benny Agosto, Jr. of the law offices of Abraham, Watkins, Nichols, Agosto, Aziz & Stogner is currently investigating the mass shooting that occurred at the Haverstock Hill Apartments located at 5619 Aldine Bender Road, Houston, Texas 77032, on Sunday, that left 2 dead and 4 others, including a former America’s Next Top Model contestant, in critical condition.
It is reported that an argument between neighbors erupted and within a few minutes, and three men drove up in a white vehicle. The suspects did not live at the apartments. Two men exited the vehicle and began arguing with the victims, when one of the suspects walked to the trunk of the vehicle and pulled out a semi-automatic assault rifle. Multiple rounds were fired into the crowd. A 31-year-old man was shot to the head and killed immediately. A 32-year-old man was rushed to the hospital and later pronounced dead. The four other individuals, a 47-year-old man, a 32-year-old woman, a 28-year-old man, and a 16-year-old girl were also rushed to the hospital and remain in critical condition.
Could the apartment complex be found liable for not adequately protecting its residents? The Texas Supreme Court in Timberwalk Apartments, Partners, Inc. v. Cain, 972 S.W.2d 749 (Tex. 1998), established the standard for a recovery against a property owner for inadequate security. More specifically, “one who controls . . . premises does have a duty to use ordinary care to protect invitees from criminal acts of third parties if he knows or has reason to know of an unreasonable and foreseeable risk of harm to the invitee.” Id. at 756. This rule applies to a landlord who “retains control over the security and safety of the premises.” A duty exists only when the risk of criminal conduct is so great that it is both unreasonable and foreseeable. Whether such risk was foreseeable must be determined in light of what the premises owner knew or should have known before the criminal act occurred. For a landowner to foresee criminal conduct on the premises, there must be evidence that other crimes have occurred “on the property or in its immediate vicinity.” Id. at 757. “Foreseeability also depends on how recently and how often criminal conduct has occurred in the past.” Id. at 757-58. “The occurrence of a significant number of crimes within a short time period strengthens the claim that the particular crime at issue was foreseeable.” Id. at 578. Accordingly, certain factors to be considered in determining foreseeability in the context of premises liability for the criminal acts of third parties are: (1) the proximity of previous crimes to the premises; (2) how recent previous crimes occurred; (3) how often previous crimes occurred; (4) the similarity of previous crimes to the crime at issue; and (5) the publicity surrounding previous crimes.. Id.
The Haverstock Hill Apartments have been the horrific and tragic scene of extreme violence for many years. Over the past several years, several thousands of calls have been placed for the help and service of law enforcement. What is more horrifying is that residents have been killed on the property over the years, and even so within this past year. Now, residents and members of the community are protesting for increased security. There is no security guard at the property’s entrance, a shortage of working security cameras, and the security gate does not function. In a rally of over a hundred people led by a local pastor, the protestors shouted, “This is our neighborhood. Shut the gate. Give us the cameras. Give us our pass. Give us our guard. Give it to us right now.”
For over 66 years, Abraham, Watkins, Nichols, Agosto, Aziz & Stogner has successfully represented injured people and families who fall victim to catastrophes. Our attorneys have the knowledge, experience and resources necessary to obtain just compensation their clients. If you or someone you know has been harmed at an apartment complex due to the criminal acts of others, contact an attorney at Abraham, Watkins, Nichols, Agosto, Aziz & Stogner by calling (713) 222-7211 or toll free at 713-222-7211.