A Houston jury last week awarded $20 million in past and future damages to a tenant who was attacked in her apartment.
The jury found the owners of the apartment complex were negligent for failing to warn the tenant that a man police suspected to be a serial rapist had broken into the neighboring unit just one day before the new tenant signed her lease.
Police say the man kicked in the tenant’s patio door and remained in the unit for hours waiting for the woman to return home. The victim endured a brutal attack that lasted 12 hours.
The rapist had broken into the victim’s next door neighbor’s apartment 17 days earlier and attempted to rape that occupant, but he fled after a struggle. Because of different work schedules, the two women had not met.
The Houston Police Department directly advised the apartment complex management that the first attack was likely the work of a serial rapist and that the apartment complex should warn its tenants.
The apartment complex management sent out a notice which only advised tenants of “break ins” at the complex. The jury found this notice to be intentionally misleading.
The victim signed a 12 month lease on the day after the apartment complex’s management learned of the attempted sexual assault occurring in the apartment next door to her. The jury found that the apartment management intentionally withheld that information from the victim when inducing her into signing a new lease. The jury found this act violated the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act.
Attorneys Troy Chandler, Devin McNulty and Steven Kherkher from the Williams Kherkher Hart Boundas, LLP law firm represented the victim. “Apartment complexes should send out accurate and truthful notices so that residents can protect themselves. This company was afraid of losing residents if it accurately reported crime and put its tenants’ money ahead of its tenants’ safety,” according to attorney Troy Chandler.
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