Join the Georgia Rights Alliance today. The attorneys at Deitch + Rogers devote the firm’s practice exclusively to representing crime victims attacked on unsafe properties. A vital factor to ensure justice for crime victims is access to a jury trial, which is a Constitutional right under the 7th Amendment. To be clear, “crime victims” may be a mother raped by an intruder in her apartment with her young children present, a five-year-old little boy struck by a stray bullet while in his bed at an apartment complex, a baby starved to death in a hotel room over 15 months, a 28-year-old man shot at an apartment complex and left paralyzed for the rest of his life, a grandmother run over and killed by thieves in a store parking lot. These are not hypothetical crime victims. Deitch + Rogers has represented each of these people and other crime victims against businesses that failed to respond appropriately to ongoing crime on their property and instead chose to prioritize increasing profits over safety.
As an example, at the beginning of the year, Attorney Michael D’Antignac argued a motion in a case where a woman was struck by a stray bullet while holding a six-month-old baby inside an apartment. Over the prior three years, 21 other people had been shot at this same apartment complex. And over that time, the owner of the complex, despite knowing about these prior shootings and other violent crimes, chose to decrease security against the recommendations of the on-site staff and their security company. They did this just to save money. While this sort of behavior is shocking, we are sad to say it is not uncommon. But this is precisely the sort of thing that will be allowed, and quite frankly encouraged, if the right to a jury trial is not protected.
For decades, Georgia law has required owners and occupiers of property to exercise ordinary care in keeping their premises safe. The simple legal directive is that if you know about a dangerous condition on your property, you have to do something about it to prevent people from getting hurt. This includes responding to crime occurring on the property. If you know people are being victimized by criminals on your property, you have to do something to try to prevent it from happening again. So, if a store knows people are being robbed at gunpoint in its parking lot, it has to do something about it. This might include requesting additional police patrols, adding security guards, adding lighting, adding surveillance cameras, or any number of other sensible measures. Similarly, if an apartment complex knows intruders are breaking into apartments and raping female tenants, they have to do something to respond to the problem. Again, this might mean adding security patrols, lighting, cameras, entrance gates, fences, etc. At a minimum, it should include notifying the tenants of the situation so they know to be on the lookout. All of this makes good sense and is easy to understand. But there are political efforts, at the behest of the insurance industry, that seek to turn this long-standing Georgia law on its head and allow businesses to ignore crime on their property while innocent people continue to suffer.
Crime is an ever increasing presence in our city and State. It seems every day there is a new story about violent and deadly crimes occurring at apartment complexes, hotels, malls, stores, and other businesses here in Atlanta. This simply is not a time that our legislature should permit businesses to do less to make their property safe. If anything, now is the time to demand that they do more to protect those they invite and expect to be on their property.
Finally, it is important to note that holding a business responsible for keeping their premises safe is not about ignoring the role the criminals play. Georgia law has long included a doctrine known as “apportionment” under which juries decide what percentage of fault the criminal perpetrator, the property owner, and sometimes even the victim, bear for the victim’s injuries. Yet, the insurance industry and their political allies suggest that juries cannot be trusted to understand and faithfully apply apportionment. This suggestion is offensive and a discredit to the Georgia residents who make up our juries. We know from more than 100 years of combined experience representing crime victims that Georgia juries are composed of caring, intelligent, engaged, and thoughtful people who deserve our gratitude and respect. Indeed, our constitutional right to have juries decide our disputes is one of the most cherished and fundamental rights we have in this State and country. It should be protected whether insurance companies and their political lobbyists like it or not.
Join the Georgia Rights Alliance to protect your right to a jury trial.