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Security in commercial parking garages

(ran HS, HC, HP editions)

Sharon works in an office building, where she rents a parking space in the 79-car basement garage. The garage has an electronic security gate and is accessible from two building elevators and a stairway to the offices above.

There have been nine robberies at the bank in the office building, but no reported crime in the garage. Evidence showed that the garage area is poorly lighted and rarely cleaned, contained dark storage areas and smelled of urine.

About 11 a.m., Sharon parked her car in her assigned space. As she was leaving her car, she was attacked and sexually assaulted at gunpoint. She sued the building owner and the manager of the garage for negligence in failing to provide security, resulting in her rape, medical expenses and loss of income.

The building owner and the manager argued that there is no duty to Sharon because her rape injury was not foreseeable.

If you were the judge would you award damages to Sharon? The judge said yes.

Third-party criminal acts in commercial parking garages where there is no attendant or security guard are foreseeable and the owners or operators have a duty to prevent and ensure against such crimes, the judge said. Commercial parking structures have an inherent high degree of foreseeable criminal activity, he noted.

Parking garages are "inherently dangerous," and owner/operators have a duty to provide reasonable security, he said, therefore Sharon is entitled to recover damages if she can prove that the owner and operator of this parking garage failed to provide reasonable security against third-party crime, the judge ruled.

Based on the 1997 California Court of Appeal decision in Sharon P. v. Arman, Ltd. 55 Cal.App.4th 445.

Robert J. Bruss is a nationally syndicated columnist on real estate. Write to him in care of the Tribune Media Syndicate, c/o the Times, 435 N Michigan Ave., Suite 400, Chicago, IL 60611.

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