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Regarding the scope of a landlord's duty to provide protection from foreseeable third party crime, the scope of the landlord's duty is determined in part by balancing the foreseeability of the harm against the burden of the duty to be imposed. In cases where the burden of preventing future harm is great, a high degree of foreseeability may be required. On the other hand, in cases where there are strong policy reasons for preventing the harm, or the harm can be prevented by simple means, a lesser degree of foreseeability may be required. This analysis, which has been reaffirmed, has been described as a sliding-scale balancing formula.
Plaintiff victim was shot and injured while he was a bystander to a gang confrontation involving a resident of the mobile home across the street from his. Plaintiff sued defendant mobile home park owner for premises liability. The trial court granted a defense motion for nonsuit after presentation of the victim's case, but the appellate court reversed the trial court's judgment. On review, the judgment of the intermediate appellate court was reversed.
Did defendant have a duty to refuse to rent to gang members?
The court concluded that the owner of the mobile home park did not have a duty to refuse to rent to gang members. It declined to impose such a burdensome, dubiously effective and socially questionable obligation on landlords, at least absent circumstances showing gang violence was extraordinarily foreseeable. Much greater foreseeability than that demonstrated here was required to recognize a duty not to rent housing to gang members. The owner did not have a duty to evict gang member tenants. The facts known to the owner did not make a violent gang confrontation so highly foreseeable as to justify imposition of a duty to undertake eviction proceedings. The owner did not have a duty to hire security guards to prevent gang violence in the mobile home park or to maintain brighter lights in the common areas. The record contained insufficient evidence for a jury to find the absence of security guards and inadequate lighting were substantial factors causing the victim's injury. Therefore, the grant of nonsuit was proper.