Last week's epsitle on premises liability and the varied duties property owners owe different categories of victims, mentioned in passing Maryland Pattern Jury Instruction 24:9, entitled " Landlord's Duty to Protect Against Third Party Criminal Activity."
The duty explicated represents a regression of the landlord's duty as it existed at common law, where so-called innkeepers had strict liability for their guests akin to the legal obligations of common carriers. This evidently gave rise to more claims than innkeepers could handle and the Maryland courts gradually eroded victim's rights of action.
Nonetheless, the basic rule of thumb as expressed is one of " reasonable care" on the part of landlords to protect tenants and invitees ( there's that term again) against criminal activities that the landlord knew or should have known have occurred on the landlord's property.
This leaves the field pretty wide open evidence-wise particularly because the instruction suggests that landlord's cognizance of prior criminal activity ends at their property line. The violent crimes at the apartment complex next-door aren't theoretically admissible despite the likelihood that the landlord is fully aware.
This makes police data a very important source of prior criminal activity of which the landlord should be aware.
Clark and Steinhorn have sucessfully handled a number of these cases through the years particularly involving hotels, shopping malls and apartment complexes in areas experiencing upticks in criminal activity.