Horvitz & Levy LLP successfully defended a summary judgment in this wrongful death and personal injury action arising from a shooting rampage involving neighboring tenants at an apartment complex managed by H&L’s client (AWI). The perpetrator (Alcala) had a number of disputes with plaintiffs’ family over the course of a year. Plaintiffs contended AWI was liable because they complained to AWI about Alcala’s behavior months before the shooting, but AWI failed to take preventative measures, such as evicting Alcala, threatening to evict him, investigating his behavior further, or contacting authorities. The trial court granted summary judgment on the ground that AWI owed plaintiffs no duty of care because it was not foreseeable that Alcala would engage in violent conduct.
The Fourth Appellate District, Division Three, agreed with H&L’s arguments and affirmed, ruling an apartment manager has a duty to evict a tenant only in cases where his behavior made violence toward neighbors highly foreseeable. The court held that none of Alcala’s reported conduct before the shooting (such as yelling at the plaintiffs while holding a stick in a ready-to-swing position) supported the required level of foreseeability. The Court of Appeal also agreed with our argument that AWI was not obligated to undertake less burdensome measures because there was no evidence that any of the measures plaintiffs proposed would have prevented the violent conduct.