Landlords: Be careful who you hire to manage property

Michael William Hawkins was a tenant at the KentfieldApartments, which is owned by Mark Wilton. On May 5, 2003, manager and nightsecurity guard David Anthony Rodriguez shot Hawkins on the sidewalk outside theapartment complex.

Rodriguez was convicted for attempted murder and relatedcharges.

Purchase Bob Bruss reports online.

Hawkins later sued Wilton for negligent hiring of Rodriguezbecause Wilton knew Rodriguez had been convicted of manslaughter, served aprison term, carried guns, used methamphetamines, and threatened tenants whileworking for him.

Hawkins sued Wilton for “respondeat superior”employer liability for negligence in not protecting the tenants fromforeseeable criminality and allowing a dangerous person to remain on theproperty.

Landlord Wilton replied the shooting took place on thepublic sidewalk outside the complex. He also alleged Rodriguez and Hawkins were”pretty good acquaintances” who spoke and smoked cigarettes almostdaily. Hawkins responded that he warned Wilton’s managers “a week or twobefore” that Rodriguez acted weird, carried guns, and was going to kill somebody.

But Hawkins continued to socialize with Rodriguez and evenlet him into his apartment. At the trial, Wilton testified this evidence showedHawkins did not consider Rodriguez to be a threat.

If you were the judge would you rule landlord Wilton can beheld liable to Hawkins for negligently hiring ex-con Rodriguez?

The judge said yes!

“An employer who allowed such conduct by a manager orsecurity guard would not be insulated from ‘respondeat superior’ liabilitysimply because the tenant chose to socialize with the employee, or simplybecause the shooting took place on the sidewalk outside the apartmentcomplex,” the judge began.

“In our view, an employer cannot allow a drug-addledconvicted felon to carry and brandish loaded firearms during the course andscope of employment, particularly where, as here, the employment necessarilyconsists of making contact with members of the public, such as tenants andvisitors to the complex,” the judge continued.

“Such conduct merits liability because it should be discouraged,the victim should be compensated and the victim’s losses should be borne by theenterprise causing the risk; moreover, liability will not impose an undueburden but will merely ensure that apartment owners who choose to employsecurity guards or managers will select, train and supervise them to avoidinflicting additional risks on their tenants,” the judge ruled.

Based on the 2006 California Court of Appeal decision in Hawkinsv. Wilton, 51 Cal.Rptr.3d 1.

(For more information on Bob Bruss publications, visit his
Real Estate Center

Copyright 2007 Inman News

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