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While there is generally no duty to act under the common law, a duty to use due care may arise where an act is voluntarily undertaken. The question of whether such a duty arises in a given case may depend on the existence of particular facts. Where there are factual issues regarding whether the defendant was in fact a volunteer, the existence of a duty becomes a mixed question of law and fact to be resolved by the fact finder. Although a landlord generally has no duty to provide security to protect tenants from criminal acts of third parties, a landlord who undertakes to provide security measures may be liable if the undertaking is performed negligently. The landlord's duty can be limited and will apply only to the extent of the landlord's undertaking.
Plaintiff tenant was abducted and robbed at gunpoint by two unknown assailants in a common area of an apartment complex in which she resident. Plaintiff tenant sued respondents - apartment complex owner, property manager, and operator, alleging that respondents voluntarily undertook a duty to provide security to the residents of the complex and breached this duty, thereby causing her damages. She also alleged that respondents were negligent in failing to properly maintain shrubbery and lighting on the premises. The circuit court granted summary judgment to respondents on tenant’s negligence claim. The appellate court affirmed. A writ of certiorari was granted.
Did the circuit court correctly grant summary judgment to the respondents on the tenant’s negligence claim?
The judgment was reversed. The court held that the respondents were not entitled to summary judgment in the tenant's negligence action, stemming from her robbery and abduction in the parking lot, because there were questions of fact for a jury as to whether a duty of care arose from respondents' voluntary undertaking to provide security through a courtesy officer program, whether respondents breached such duty, and whether such breach was a proximate cause of any damages sustained by the tenant. A third-party criminal act could not be deemed completely unforeseeable as a matter of law when the alleged breach was respondents’ failure to properly administer a program that guarded against these very happenings, and the tenant's expert provided evidence of other crimes in the parking lot.