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REAL PROPERTY, TRUST, AND ESTATE LAW: Exposure to Premises Liability for Third-Party Criminal Acts

By Norman W. Gutmacher

On an ever more frequent basis, injured employees, customers, and invitees are suing property owners, property managers, and tenants (referred to in this article together as “Deep Pockets”) for injuries arising out of criminal acts on the property in question (sometimes referred to as “premises liability”) committed against them by unknown third parties. What appears to have started with a relatively isolated case in Washington, D.C., Kline v. 1500 Massachusetts Ave. Apartment Corp., 439 F.2d 477 (D.C. Cir. 1970), is now occurring regularly. As these incidents and lawsuits continue to grow in frequency, it becomes more important to take steps to try to minimize both the problem and the exposure for premises liability.

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