DeKalb County Judges Allow Apportionment Against Criminal Assailant in Premises Liability Case

Based on the Sarvis decision, two DeKalb County Judges recently allowed apportionment against two criminals in a premises liability trial in which an apartment complex had been sued as a result of a criminal assault and murder. The result was startling in that the jury apportioned 95% fault against the criminal defendants and only 5% against the apartment complex.

According to a description of the case provided by the Fulton County Daily Report, Wesley Hagan had been shot in the head and killed during an apartment robbery at the Standard Oaks Apartment in Tucker in 2005. The apartment complex, owned and managed by Miles Property, was sued on the basis that the complex had not provided sufficient security in order to prevent this criminal assault. There apparently was evidence of prior criminal acts at the apartment complex.

Judge Edward Carriere, Jr, who has now retired, originally declined to allow the jury to apportion damages against the criminal assailants. However, after Sarvis was decided, Judge Carriere reversed himself and agreed to allow such apportionment. Judge Al Wong, who conducted the trial, also allowed for apportionment against the criminal assailants. The jury verdict form from this case provided as follows:

We, the jury, find in favor of the Plaintiff
We award general damages of pain and suffering in the amount of $0.00
We award damages for the full value of life for the wrongful death of claim of $184,192.16

We, the jury, assign the percentage of fault as follows:
5%- Criminal Derrick Port
90%- Criminal Jarvis Floyd

This application of Sarvis is extremely important in any premises liability case involving a crime, whether it be murder, rape, or assault. Now, a jury should be allowed to apportion fault as to the criminal who actually caused the injury. I fully expect this decision to be appealed but, for the time being, hopefully other trial courts will follow DeKalb County’s lead in allowing apportionment against the parties who directly caused the injuries in these types of cases.

Please contact me 404-870-7375 or if you have any questions at all about this ruling.

About the Author

Michael Rust graduated from Emory University in 1980 and Emory University School of Law in 1983 where he was Notes and Comments editor of the Emory Law Journal (Law Review). Since that time, he has maintained an active trial practice in the state of Georgia both in State and Federal Courts. Mr. Rust teaches litigation as part of Emory University School of Law’s annual Trial Practice Program. He has received AV rating from Martindale Hubble, the highest rating afforded to lawyers by their peers.