The Law School Authority

Kline v. 1500 Massachusetts Ave Apartment Case Brief

Summary of Kline v. 1500 Massachusetts Ave Apartment, U. S. ct of App, [1970]

Lessors and Lessees

Relevant Facts: Pl Kline a lessee of df, sustained serious injuries when she was criminally assaulted and robbed while she was in a common hallway in an apartment building. A doorman had previously been used, the building was left unguarded at the time of the attack, in spite of the df’s knowledge of robberies, larcenies, and assault upon the tenants, the condition remained, unguarded.

Legal Issue(s): Whether the df apartment corporation has a duty to take steps to protect tenants from foreseeable criminal acts committed by 3rd parties?

Court’s Holding: yes

Procedure: D. ct. found no duty on the df.  Reversed.

Law or Rule(s): General Rule : a private person does not have a duty to protect another from a criminal attack by a third party.

Court Rationale: The traditional rule does not apply in a modern world setting.  The landlord had notice of repeated criminal assaults, and robberies on the premises within his control.  He had reason to believe they would continue and he had the power to take corrective action.  It is not unfair to place upon the landlord a duty to take step w/i his power to minimize the risk to tenants.

Innkeepers have been held liable for assaults committed on their guests by 3rd parties if they breached a duty imposed by the guest-keeper relationship.  That being reasonable care to protect the guest from abuse, if the attack could have been anticipated. The landlord is the only one in a position to take necessary acts of protection.  The applicable standard of care the landlord should have exercised is the same employed when the tenant moved in, security in areas not patrolled by police where crime was known to flourish.

Plaintiff’s Argument: The landlord owed duty to protect the lessee in a common hallway after the landlord was given notice of repeated dangerous activities.

Defendant’s Argument: A private person does not owe a duty to protect another from criminal attack by a 3rd, there is no way to reasonably foresee the attack.

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