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Landmark Case Result: Catherine Dickinson & Michael Belsky Secure Favorable Result in Court of Special Appeals for Family of Man Killed at Baltimore Dollar Store

by | Sep 27, 2021 | Personal Injury

Attorneys with SBWD Have Successfully Argued an Appeal Resulting in Dollar General Landlord Being Held Liable for Death of Employee

Attorneys Catherine Dickinson and Michael Belsky of Schlachman, Belsky, Weiner, & Davey, P.A. recently secured a favorable result in the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland on behalf of the family of a man killed during an armed robbery at a Dollar General in Baltimore. The appellate court found that the trial court erred in granting the defendant’s motion to dismiss and has remanded the case for further proceedings.

At Schlachman, Belsky, Weiner, & Davey, P.A., we provide experienced representation for individuals who have been hurt or families who have lost loved ones because of another person’s negligence or wrongdoing. Contact our office at (410) 685-2022 to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation.

Appellate Court Decision

According to the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland, the attorneys were successful in arguing that the Circuit Court for Baltimore City’s decision to grant a landlord’s motion to dismiss was erroneous. The decision was vacated and remanded back to the circuit court to allow the facts of the case to be fully developed during discovery.

The case hinged on whether a landlord owes a duty of care to protect a tenant from the criminal acts of a third person inside leased premises. The appellate court found that at this early stage of litigation, the court had insufficient facts to make a determination that the landlord, Edmondson Village, did not owe a duty to protect a tenant from a criminal attack inside the leased premise.

A Tragic Death

As presented at the Circuit Court level by Attorneys Dickinson and Belsky, Deric Ford was working as a store manager at the Dollar General located in the Edmondson Village Shopping Center on August 8, 2017, when he was shot and killed in an armed robbery. 

The shopping center had been plagued by criminal activity, including a fatal stabbing that occurred only 18 days prior to Mr. Ford’s murder. As indicated in the complaint, there were hundreds of violent crimes reported to the Baltimore Police Department that occurred on or around the Shopping Center in the months and years leading up to Mr. Ford’s devastating murder.

Inadequate Security Measures

Despite clear evidence that the shopping center had become a hotbed for criminal activity, the landlord provided no security guards and failed to take adequate measures to protect individuals on the property. The legal question becomes whether the owner of the shopping center can be held liable for the injuries sustained by a tenant of the leased property.

The Circuit Court, in granting the landowner’s motion to dismiss, found that because of Mr. Ford’s status as a tenant in the leased premises and not a business invitee, he was not owed a duty of care by the shopping center’s owner.  And therefore, the shopping center was not negligent in failing to take reasonable security measures to protect him from potential criminal acts of third persons inside the leased premises, in this case, the Dollar General.

Arguments Regarding Landlord Liability

Attorneys Dickinson and Belsky appealed the lower court’s decision to the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland. In a reported decision, the appellate court found that while normally a landowner does not owe a duty to protect tenants from the criminal acts of a third person that occur inside leased premises, there are certain circumstances where they may. 

The court discussed several prior cases in which the set of facts indicated that the landowner knew or should have known that a foreseeable risk of harm existed. More specifically, if a landlord knew or should have known of criminal activity against people or property in the area, then they have a duty to take reasonable measures to protect individuals from the risk of harm.

Therefore, a landlord’s negligent maintenance of a common area may lead to liability for criminal acts that occur within leased premises. To determine whether the duty to protect tenants injured or killed inside leased premises exists, the facts of a case, particularly related to a landlord’s knowledge of the potential danger, must be fully developed. 

Court Decided that Landlord’s Motion to Dismiss Was in Error

In this case, the court determined that further proceedings are required to determine whether the landlord knew or should have known about the criminal activity and could have foreseen the potential harm to individuals such as Mr. Ford. 

The justices found that the attorneys had set forth facts in the complaint that court support findings that the landowner owed a duty of care to Mr. Ford, and the Circuit Court erred in granting the landlord’s motion to dismiss. 

Attorneys Dickinson and Belsky will now have a chance to fully litigate the case, presenting evidence that the owner of Edmondson Village had actual and/or constructive knowledge of the criminal activity and failed to use reasonable care to secure the premises.

Contact Schlachman, Belsky, Weiner, & Davey, P.A. to Learn More

At Schlachman, Belsky, Weiner, & Davey, P.A., we are proud to announce this landmark case result. Attorney Catherine Dickinson and Michael Belsky worked tirelessly to secure this victory, arguing against the initial Motion to Dismiss at the Circuit Court and appealing the decision to the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland.

If you or a loved one has suffered harm as the result of another person’s wrongdoing, contact our office for a free, confidential consultation. We have recovered millions on behalf of clients throughout Maryland and will provide you and your family with the dedicated, passionate advocacy you deserve. Call (410) 685-2022 to get started.

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