One who takes charge of a third person whom he knows or should know to be likely to cause bodily harm to others if not controlled is under a duty to exercise reasonable care to control the third person to prevent him from doing such harm
A convicted felon serving a penitentiary sentence was permitted to reside in a privately-operated halfway house. While there, he left the premises of the halfway house, broke and entered the residence of a woman, raped her, and strangled her to death. Plaintiff administrator of the victim (administrator) filed an against defendant operator of a halfway house, (operator) alleging that the victim's death resulted from the negligence of the operator in failing to exercise reasonable care to control the felon. The Circuit Court of the City of Richmond (Virginia), sustained a demurrer and dismissed the case. The administrator appealed.
Did the operator of the "halfway house" have the duty to exercise reasonable care to control the felon so as to prevent him from causing harm to the decedent?
The court stated that the operator had the duty to exercise reasonable care to control the felon so as to prevent him from causing harm to the victim. Thus, the court held that the victim, although not foreseeably at risk as an individual, was a member of a class consisting of those persons within a given area of danger, that was, the area foreseeably accessible to the felon during his hours at large on the streets on the night of the murder, as a result of the operator's negligent failure to control him. Because the trial court erred in sustaining the demurrer, the court reversed the judgment and remanded the case for further proceedings consistent with the opinion.