How Safe Is the Apartment You Want to Rent? Key Questions to Ask a Landlord Before Signing a Lease
A sense of security and safety for you and your family is key to making a house feel like a home.
Unfortunately, many landlords don’t provide, and in some cases aren’t legally required to share, crime and safety information to a potential tenant.
“Along with costs and amenities, tenants should be prepared to ask a variety of questions about safety measures before signing a lease and moving into a new apartment or home” says Michael Haggard. Haggard is the Managing Partner of The Haggard Law Firm (www.haggardlawfirm.com) which has made a mark successfully representing tenants who are injured or killed by someone committing a crime that could have been prevented if the landlord of the property where the crime occurs had taken proper security measures.
On August 16th, 2018 The Haggard Law Firm will present Winning Case Strategies in Premises Liability, a FREE CLE Credit Seminar. The event will take place from 1 to 5pm at the Doubletree Jacksonville Riverfront. To RSVP for the seminar, email or call Stacy at email@example.com 305.446.5700
Common Conditions that Give Rise to a Premises Liability Case
by Douglas Mccarron
In my experience, the most common condition in any premises liability case is the lack of guardianship of the property. In most instances, the property owner and/or manager fails to put in place policies and procedures that ensure that the premises is kept in a reasonably safe condition. For example, in many negligent security cases it becomes obvious that the owner and management fail to do anything that assesses violent crime occurring at the property. Without knowing what type of crime is happening, it is nearly impossible to know what type of security measures are needed. How can the owner make decisions about access control, manned security, and surveillance cameras, if they have failed to gather the crime statistics for the property and the surrounding area? The answer is simple, they do not know and consequently violent crime continues to victimize the property’s guests and invitees. In slip and fall cases, many properties fail to ensure that their employees follow the internal policies and procedures to maintain the property in a safe manner. This leads to dangerous conditions being left on the property for an unacceptable amount of time.
If property owners simply prepare policies and procedures for their employees to follow and have appropriate supervision to ensure that the policies and procedures are being followed, then the most dangerous conditions would cease to exist. Obviously, financial considerations come into play for the property owners. In developing a premises liability case, it is important to discover exactly what property owners are failing to do and why they are failing to do it. Jurors do not appreciate property owners turning a blind eye and pleading ignorance. Jurors also do not accept that the owners do not want to put the necessary resources (money) into the property to make it safe.
Every trial lawyer understands the significance of creating and developing a strong, clear theme for their case at trial. The theme of your case initiates a tone towards your Case-in-Chief and if powerful enough, it will dictate which fork in the road, favorable or unfavorable to your client, the jury takes.
Opening statement is the second opportunity the trial lawyer has to begin planting the seed of bias in favor of his or her client—seasoned and skilled trial lawyers understand voir dire is really the first opportunity. It is critical to communicate to the jury and ingrain within each member of the jury a persuasive and powerful theme. Why? Once your theme is etched into the minds of the jury, each juror will begin to look for evidence that supports that theme. If a particular piece of evidence contradicts that theme they will likely discard that piece of evidence or they may not associate as much credence with it as they would have had it fit with your theme. This is vital to the outcome of your case. The theme essentially summarizes your case for the jury. Whether it is a short phrase or one word, the theme should capture the case theory, tone and the area of focus for the jury. The theme should be simple and easy to understand. I can share with you a case example in a recent trial of The Haggard Law Firm—the case of Trinard Snell.
Our firm tried the negligent security case against a gas station owner and operator, which resulted in a $5.7 million dollar verdict on behalf of the deceased Plaintiff and his survivors. Understanding the importance of a clear theory and a memorable, persuasive theme, we began opening statement with our theme— inadequate security on a crime-ridden property.
The case theme was presented to the jury at the very beginning of opening statement, repeated throughout the entire opening statement and reiterated at the end. Why? A concept in psychology—primacy, and recency—tells us that order is important! The primacy effect is described as the ability of an individual to recall information better that was presented earlier rather than later. The recency effect is described as the ability of an individual to remember information presented most recently to them better than information that was presented earlier. When you combine the two, optimal information recollection is achieved. Therefore, at minimum, the jury must here your theme at the beginning and at the end of your presentation.
Haggard Law Firm trial lawyer and Managing Partner, Michael Haggard email MAH@HaggardLawFirm.com
Testimony and Evidence Presented
After your jury has been indoctrinated with the theme of your case through voir dire and opening statement, you must keep the jury on that same track during the presentation of the oral testimony and physical evidence. Depending on the length of the trial, the jury will hear days to weeks of testimony. It is their job to sort through the evidence presented and make a just decision at the end of the trial. After weeks of testimony, jurors often become overwhelmed with the volume of information and evidence presented. It is the trial lawyer’s job to organize this testimony and evidence presented to the jury in a manner that diminishes this information overload. I use the analogy of a train on a train track to best describe this concept. The theme is the locomotive. Your jury represents the passengers on the train. The trial lawyer must keep his or her passengers onboard throughout the entire trial until arriving at destination “Favorable Verdict.”
One way to ensure your train passengers are not disembarking is to reiterate your theme and theory of your case throughout each segment of the trial. Your theme should be clear, concise and easy to recognize. The theme is the lens through which your jury will view the case. It is imperative that the lens you provide to the jury is the correct diopter—representing a powerful and persuasive theme. An incorrect diopter will result in a hazy, unclear view of your case and perhaps an unfavorable verdict. Mock trials and jury focus groups are a great way to gauge the lens diopter your jury will need.
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As simple as this may sound, many lawyers have a difficult time successfully implementing these techniques. Through our years of law school and demanding casework at our prosperous law firms, our legal minds are trained to analyze the complexities and minutiae of the law, creating sophisticated legal arguments for opposing counsel and the court. The basic techniques of persuasive communication are often neglected due to the lawyer’s engrossment with the complexities of the legal issues of their case and their own familiarity with legal terms and attitude of simplicity. For example, the trial attorney that uses the theme of “Negligent Actions” will be rudely surprised by the jurors’ varying definitions of negligence. Despite the lawyer’s familiarity with the term “negligence” and its rudimentary elements, it is not so easily nor correctly defined by the jury. Through juror focus groups and mock trials, the lawyer can clear out the fog and rework the case theme prior to trial. During the deliberations at mock trials, I often hear jurors begin an explanation with “Personally, I feel that…” or “To me, this means…” These phrases are indicative of “information gap-filling.” Jurors will pull from their personal experiences to fill in the gaps. Those gaps are either areas where the jury is confused or has simply forgotten the information presented. Regardless of the reason for the existence of the gap, the juror will instinctively try to fill that gap in order to make sense of the legal questions they are tasked with answering. This illustrates why trial lawyers cannot forget the basics and cannot neglect the importance of simplifying and effectively communicating those complex issues to the members of the jury. The skilled trial lawyer will be mindful of this. The skilled trial lawyer will have an engaging theme.
The International Academy of Trial Lawyers has announced it is supporting assault weapons. The Haggard Law Firm's Managing Partner Michael Haggard and Senior Partner Andy Haggard are both members of this renowned legal organization. Michael is currently on the Board of Directors and Admissions Committee Board Member.
IATL is an international legal association both in spirit and membership. The Academy limits Fellowship to 500 active trial lawyers from the United States and includes over 150 Fellows from nearly 40 countries across the globe.
Fellowship in the Academy is by invitation only, and trial lawyers become Fellows only after an extremely rigorous vetting...
Although each negligent security case may bring about different facts or require ingenuity with your strategy, there are certain elements of your case that remain constant. One of those elements is crime statistics. The importance of crime statistics in your case cannot be stated enough. Not only do these statistics help establish notice and foreseeability to the defendants, they are also a treasure trove of information.
With respect to notice and foreseeability, your crime statistics establish what the defendants “knew or should have known” prior to and at the time of subject incident. So what should you request? You begin by requesting the calls for service and all police reports for the subject property. This needs to be done in one request. From there, depending on your jurisdiction, you will order up to a mile radius for the calls for service. Once you receive each respective request, you must synthesize the data. For example, you will detail the violent and non-violent crimes and their frequency on the property. This provides a picture of what type of crime was going on at the property. It provides you with the ability to illustrate to the jury the level of crime occurring and can be used effectively to show that it is an improbability for a defendant to be unaware of the police being called to the property.
In this article, The Haggard Law Firm’s Jason Brenner discusses a variety of topics including why trial attorneys should always employ a philosophy that every case should be prepared to go to trial. He says it is a mindset that many trial attorneys don’t employ.
Brenner is part of the team that recently obtained a $12 million verdict in a wrongful death, negligent security case following a 5 day trial (click to learn more about the case). Click here to learn more about the case
The Truth I Never Knew about Direct and Cross-Examinations
Entering the legal field with the desire to become a trial attorney is a daunting endeavor. There is only one place where a young lawyer can establish himself or herself as a trial attorney—in the courtroom. Trial practice has almost become a misnomer in today’s world. The firm where I have been privileged to practice is made up of an endangered species of the trial attorney. I revel in the “war stories” about them trying a case on Monday and preparing for the next one on Friday. Nowadays, the majority of time spent in court is in motion practice.
The current status of trial practice creates an interesting conflict for young, aspiring attorneys in their attempt to develop trial skills. In the almost six years I have been practicing, I have been trial support on two civil jury trials and second chair on an additional two. The first trial in which I participated as second chair was a stroke of fortune and an eye-opening experience. Once I was in the courtroom in this role, I understood the purpose and importance of direct and cross-examination, but, most important, I understood the difference between direct and cross-examination in discovery and at trial. The primary focus of this article is to illustrate the principles of direct and cross-examination that have been taught to me.
Make your plans now to join The Haggard Law Firm's Michael Haggard from December 5th to the 7th in Portland, Oregon for the 2017 National Crime Victims Bar Association's National Conference, Civil Actions for Criminal Acts. Haggard, the organization's President-elect will be among the speakers during the conference. The event offers attorneys a chance to network and learn from other attorneys in the field, and connect with victim advocates, counselors, program managers, attorneys, social workers, psychologists, researchers, nurses, volunteers, administrators, clergy, nonprofit managers, system-based service providers, and leaders from across the country.
Conference Training Highlights Include:
15 workshops and four plenary sessions covering topics...