Example of A Case Where the Property Owner Was Not be Held At Fault for the Sexual Assault
In Nola M. v. University of Southern California (1993) 16 Cal.App.4th 421, a student at USC was sexually assaulted in a common area on the campus of the college. She was, unfortunately, not able to identify her attackers or even where they came from or how they got onto the property. The court ruled that the university couldn't be held liable because the plaintiff student was not able to demonstrate that they college could have foreseen such an attack or could have done anything differently that would have prevented it. The court held as follows: “When an injury can be prevented by a lock or a fence or a chain across a driveway or some other physical device, a landowner's failure to erect an appropriate barrier can be the legal cause of an injury inflicted by the negligent or criminal act of a third person" but, that where there was no evidence that any such measures could have prevented the crime, the landowner could not be held responsible.
Example of A Landlord Being Held Responsible for A Sexual Assault
By contrast to the Nola v. USC case, the court in Raven H. v. Gamette, 157 Cal. App. 4th 1017, a tenant in an apartment complex was raped and it was shown that the rapist gained entry into her dwelling by way of a window that was not properly secured by the landlord and in an area that was not well lit due to burned out light bulbs. In this case the court made a ruling that the landlord should be held responsible for the sexual assault because it was foreseeable that the failure to provide proper locks on the window or to maintain lighting could make it more likely that an assailant could come onto the property and commit a crime. The court held as follows:
"...foreseeability may arise directly from the risk created by the original act of negligence: ‘If the likelihood that a third person may act in a particular manner is the hazard or one of the hazards which makes the actor negligent, such an act whether innocent, negligent, intentionally tortious, or criminal does not prevent the actor from being liable for harm caused thereby. . .. Bearing in mind that we address only the issue of causation, we conclude that there are triable issues of material fact regarding whether the decedent's and [landlord's] efforts to keep unauthorized persons out of the apartment complex, and their allegedly not providing plaintiff with security devices provided to other tenants, were substantial factors in causing plaintiff's injuries."