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Landlord Can Be Liable For Rape

Generally, a person can be liable under the law only for injuries caused by that person's carelessness. This is especially true where the injury is caused by the intentional act of a third person, such as where a criminal causes an injury while committing a crime. However, there are some exceptions to this general rule, including one discussed in a recent Illinois court case.

The suit was brought against a landlord by her tenant. The tenant claimed that when she moved in, the landlord promised that the property would be well lit by exterior security lights, but the landlord failed to keep the lights in good condition. As a result, the exterior of the building was dark, and one night, when the tenant was returning home from the opera, she was raped by an attacker who had been hiding in the shadows.

The tenant sued her landlord, claiming that the lack of lights had allowed the attack to occur. The Illinois trial court ruled that the landlord could not be liable for the tenant's injuries, but the appellate court reversed this decision and sent the case back for trial. The appellate court found that there was evidence that the landlord had voluntarily committed to making sure that the building was well lit for the security of her tenants. If a person volunteers to do something that he has no legal obligation to do, the law will sometimes allow the individual to be liable if he does not perform as promised, or if his performance is insufficient.

The court found that the landlord had promised to provide security lights, but that most of the security lights had burned out and thus were useless. Because the landlord had volunteered to provide lights and did not do so, the court ruled that there was a fact question about whether the lack of lights led to or contributed to the rape of the tenant, even though the immediate cause of the tenant's injuries was an illegal act by a third person. This case illustrates the complexities of the law of negligence, which has rules and exceptions... and exceptions to the exceptions.

This website is not intended to constitute legal advice or the provision of legal services. By posting and/or maintaining the website and its contents, Lucas Law does not intend to solicit business from clients located in states or jurisdictions outside of Illinois wherein Lucas Law or its individual attorney(s) are not licensed or authorized to practice law.

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