David Nelson, a 31 year old former marine, was tragically shot and killed at a South Florida apartment building where he resided. The killer – Jaime Vogel (who later committed suicide in jail awaiting trial) – was another apartment resident who had moved there a couple years earlier.
The apartment was managed by Greystar – a sizable property management company who oversaw many additional properties. They were managing this particular apartment building at the time Vogel was looking to move in. The lawsuit against Greystar alleged that the management firm negligently failed to properly assure that the tenants at the building were going to be safe and that they failed to perform an adequate and proper background check. As the facts of the matter were discovered, Greystar decided to settle for $1.5M.
Details came to light in the depositions and investigations that Greystar did not properly perform a background check on Vogel. Specifically, it was found that Vogel had previously been kicked out of another Greystar-managed property for disturbing the peace and making death threats against other residents. The plaintiffs said this failure led to Vogel acting out on his violence on David Nelson and Greystar agreed to settle the matter.
Property managers being held liable for the death of residents is extremely rare and since this matter was settled, no case law was established. However, this sad situation brings to light the importance of property managers acting with care as they search for tenants.
Management firms have a fiduciary obligation to their clients to act with care – care to find tenants that will respect the property and other tenants. It is important for managers to perform each of their duties and due diligence well. Failing to do so can not only lead to lawsuits against the firm that can impact the future of the firm, but loss of life or even the murder of another tenant.
Contact us to discuss additional ways to protect your property management firm from liability.