Jury Awards $9 Mil. against Apt. Owner

So you think your $1 million liability insurance policy is enough to protect you? Not anymore!

A woman who was beaten, raped and robbed at her Marietta, Ga., apartment was awarded $9 million in compensatory damages by a Fulton County State Court jury. One premises liability expert, Gilbert H. Deitch, said $9 million was the largest award he had ever heard for an apartment rape case. The sum also floored the lawyer representing the apartment owners. "Not to take anything away from that woman's suffering, but we were shocked at the amount," said defense attorney Charles Richard "Chip" Carson of Atlanta's Nall & Miller. "It was nine or 10 times larger than anything we'd contemplated during trial," added Carson, who made the unusual move in the middle of the trial of admitting the defendant was liable for the attack and focused only on arguing over damages.

Peter A. Law, the plaintiffs counsel, said the circumstances surrounding the attack -- and testimony concerning the apartment complex's security and maintenance -- spurred jurors to award the amount he had recommended during the two-day trial. Even though the attack occurred in Cobb County, Ga., the trial was held in Fulton, Ga., because the owners and management company are registered there. M.H. v. EPT Management Company and TVO Hampton Village Partners LLP, No. CV-02-vs-034714H (Fult. St. Dec. 14, 2005). The victim was leaving her Hampton Village apartment about 9 p.m. on July 24, 1999, when she was accosted, said Law. "Two guys stick a gun in her back, shoved her in the apartment, and one guy robbed the place while the other one raped her," he said. The two assailants ran away and were never caught, he said.

The conclusion is that all commercial and rental buildings should be held in a Limited Liability Company, Corporation or other limited liability entity.

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