359 A.2d 548 (Md. 1976), 5, Scott v. Watson

Docket NºMisc. No. 5.
Citation359 A.2d 548, 278 Md. 160
Opinion Judge[10] Murphy
Party NameEvelyn Ann SCOTT, etc., et al. v. E. John WATSON, etc., et al.
Attorney[7] Alvin Dwight Pettit and Michael Bowen Mitchell, with whom was E. Thomas W. Stahl on the brief, for appellants.
Case DateJuly 13, 1976
CourtCourt of Appeals of Maryland

Page 548

359 A.2d 548 (Md. 1976)

278 Md. 160

Evelyn Ann SCOTT, etc., et al.

v.

E. John WATSON, etc., et al.

Misc. No. 5.

Court of Appeals of Maryland.

July 13, 1976

Page 549

[278 Md. 161] Alvin Dwight Pettit and Michael Bowen Mitchell, Baltimore (E. Thomas W. Stahl, Baltimore, on the brief), for appellants.

Stanley B. Rohd, Baltimore (George D. Solter, Whiteford, Taylor, Preston, Trimble & Johnston, Baltimore, on the brief), for appellees.

Argued before MURPHY, C. J., and SINGLEY, SMITH, DIGGES, LEVINE and ELDRIDGE, JJ.

MURPHY, Chief Judge.

This case has come to us from the United States District Court for the District of Maryland, pursuant to the Uniform Certification of Questions of Law Act, Maryland Code (1974) Courts & Judicial Proceedings Article, § 12-601 et seq.; that Act authorizes us to answer questions of state law certified by (among others) a United States District Court 'which may be determinative of the cause then pending in the certifying court and as to which it appears . . . there is no controlling precedent in the Court of Appeals of this state.'

Plaintiff Evelyn Ann Scott originally brought suit in the Superior Court of Baltimore

Page 550

City against the owners of the Sutton Place Apartments (the defendants), who removed the case to the federal court. She sued both as the surviving child of James Aubrey Scott, Jr., and in her capacity as personal representative of his estate. In her wrongful death and survivor's actions she claimed that the defendants had breached a duty owed to Scott as one of their tenants to protect him from criminal acts of third parties committed in common areas within their control, and that the breach of duty proximately caused Scott's death. In its order of certification, the District Court certified three questions of law, i. e.:

'(1) Does Maryland law impose upon the landlord of an urban apartment complex a duty to tenants to protect them from the criminal acts of [278 Md. 162] third parties committed in common areas within the landlord's control and, if so, what is the extent of such duty?

'(2) If no such duty exists generally, would such a duty be imposed if the landlord has knowledge of increasing criminal activity on the premises or in the immediate neighborhood?

'(3) Would such a duty be imposed upon a landlord if such landlord has undertaken specific measures to protect his tenants from the criminal acts of third parties?'

The statement of relevant facts, as certified by the District Court, and to which we are limited, is as follows: 'Sutton Place Apartments, at 1111 Park Avenue in Baltimore City, was owned and operated by the Department of Housing and Urban Development until January 29, 1973, when it was purchased by Sutton Place Associates, a limited partnership whose general partners are the defendants in this action. Sutton Place is a multistory structure with a number of retail shops on the ground level and 290 apartment units occupying fifteen floors above ground. Common areas for the use of tenants include a lobby, halls, stairways, an underground parking garage, and two outdoor parking lots. Access to the underground parking garage is by means of sliding steel door activated by an electrocard device.

'On the evening of July 12-13, 1973, between the hours of 11:45 p. m. and 12:10 a. m., the plaintiff's decedent, James Aubrey Scott, Jr., a tenant at Sutton Place, was killed by the blast of a shotgun within several yards of his automobile in the apartment's underground parking garage. At the time of his death, Scott was facing trial in the United States District Court for the District of Maryland under a multicount indictment charging him with conspiracy to distribute heroin. The police report indicates that there were scattered in the general area of Scott's body numerous sheets of paper with printed slogans stating 'Dope dealers are traitors, dope dealers must die.' Although there was a guard on the [278 Md. 163] apartment premises at the time of the murder, the guard was unaware of the crime, and Scott's body was in fact discovered by a tenant approximately one and one-half hours after the crime was committed.

'Scott's assailant has never been positively identified, nor has it been determined exactly how the murderer gained entrance to the garage. Some 450 tenants of the apartment, together with guests and invitees of such tenants, had lawful access to the underground parking garage where Scott was shot. One individual was in fact charged with the murder but was acquitted following a trial in the Criminal Court of Baltimore City.'

'When Sutton Place Associates purchased the apartment complex, the following security devices and procedures provided security to tenants and their invitees: (1) Two closed circuit television cameras monitored the basement of the building and the rear of the retail stores on the ground level; (2) A guard supplied by the Loughlin Security Agency, Inc. was

Page 551

on duty nightly from 10:00 p. m. to 6:00 a. m. and patrolled the premises four times each night, except that the outside grounds and garage area were patrolled only twice nightly; (3) A switchboard operator in the lobby monitored the television system and the main entrance to the building; and (4) At the main entrance was stationed a doorman who would park the car of any tenant wishing this done for him.

'In spite of these security precautions, Sutton Place tenants in the period before Scott's murder were apprehensive about the high incidence of crime in the surrounding neighborhood.

'At the time of the meeting of the Sutton Place Tenants Association held on February 20, 1973, three officers of that organization expressed their concern to the new owners, and particularly noted that only one doorman was on duty.

'Records of the Baltimore City Police Department indicate that for the period January 4, 1972 to July 13, 1973, 56 crimes against property and 16 crimes against persons [278 Md. 164] were reported to have been committed on or near the apartment premises. Defendants learned in late March or early April of 1973 of five or six incidents involving illegal entry into tenants' apartments, but none of the incidents involved personal injury to tenants. In addition, police reports indicate that the following occurred in or around the apartment premises during the three months...

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124 practice notes
  • 166 Cal.App.4th 103, B187840, Ritter & Ritter, Inc. Pension & Profit Plan v. Churchill Condominium Assn.
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • July 22, 2008
    ...Kline v. 1500 Massachusetts Avenue Apartment Corp. (D.C. Cir.1970) 141 U.S. App.D.C. 370 [439 F.2d 477, 480-481]; Scott v. Watson (1976) 278 Md. 160 [359 A.2d 548, 552]; Sevigny v. Dibble Hollow Condominium Assn., Inc. (2003) 76 Conn.App. 306 [819 A.2d 844].) California cases hold that a ho......
  • 531 N.E.2d 1358 (Ill. 1988), 65167, Rowe v. State Bank of Lombard
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Illinois
    • September 22, 1988
    ...v. Merriam (1984), 506 Pa. 383, 485 A.2d 742; Gulf Reston, Inc. v. Rogers (1974), 215 Va. 155, 207 S.E.2d 841; Scott v. Watson (1976), 278 Md. 160, 359 A.2d 548.) The question here is whether under the circumstances there was such a The plaintiffs argue that even if Paramount and Fennessey ......
  • 389 Mass. 47 (1983), Mullins v. Pine Manor College
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts
    • May 2, 1983
    ...criminal acts occurred on the premises. See e.g., Riley v. Marcus, 125 Cal.App.3d 103, 109, 177 Cal.Rptr. 827 (1981); Scott v. Watson, 278 Md. 160, 169, 359 A.2d 548 (1976); Gulf Reston, Inc. v. Rogers, 215 Va. 155, 157-159, 207 S.E.2d 841 (1974). We choose not to follow those cases, at lea......
  • 714 A.2d 881 (Md. 1998), 109, Shields v. Wagman
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Maryland
    • August 6, 1998
    ...sustained by tenant resulting from accumulation of snow on a common approach to multiple family dwellings); see also Scott v. Watson, 278 Md. 160, 169, 359 A.2d 548, 554 (1976) (noting in a certified question case that a landlord may be liable for tenant's death resulting from criminal acti......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
124 cases
  • 166 Cal.App.4th 103, B187840, Ritter & Ritter, Inc. Pension & Profit Plan v. Churchill Condominium Assn.
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • July 22, 2008
    ...Kline v. 1500 Massachusetts Avenue Apartment Corp. (D.C. Cir.1970) 141 U.S. App.D.C. 370 [439 F.2d 477, 480-481]; Scott v. Watson (1976) 278 Md. 160 [359 A.2d 548, 552]; Sevigny v. Dibble Hollow Condominium Assn., Inc. (2003) 76 Conn.App. 306 [819 A.2d 844].) California cases hold that a ho......
  • 531 N.E.2d 1358 (Ill. 1988), 65167, Rowe v. State Bank of Lombard
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Illinois
    • September 22, 1988
    ...v. Merriam (1984), 506 Pa. 383, 485 A.2d 742; Gulf Reston, Inc. v. Rogers (1974), 215 Va. 155, 207 S.E.2d 841; Scott v. Watson (1976), 278 Md. 160, 359 A.2d 548.) The question here is whether under the circumstances there was such a The plaintiffs argue that even if Paramount and Fennessey ......
  • 389 Mass. 47 (1983), Mullins v. Pine Manor College
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts
    • May 2, 1983
    ...criminal acts occurred on the premises. See e.g., Riley v. Marcus, 125 Cal.App.3d 103, 109, 177 Cal.Rptr. 827 (1981); Scott v. Watson, 278 Md. 160, 169, 359 A.2d 548 (1976); Gulf Reston, Inc. v. Rogers, 215 Va. 155, 157-159, 207 S.E.2d 841 (1974). We choose not to follow those cases, at lea......
  • 714 A.2d 881 (Md. 1998), 109, Shields v. Wagman
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Maryland
    • August 6, 1998
    ...sustained by tenant resulting from accumulation of snow on a common approach to multiple family dwellings); see also Scott v. Watson, 278 Md. 160, 169, 359 A.2d 548, 554 (1976) (noting in a certified question case that a landlord may be liable for tenant's death resulting from criminal acti......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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