According to a storey in the Southeastern Texas Record, a lawsuit has been filed against an apartment building owner in the rape of a tenant, a 14 year old girl, by a maintenance worker that was a registered sex offender.  It was alleged that the employee repeatedly sexually assaulted the victim at knifepoint for an unspecified number of hours. The victim apparently went to the offenses apartment for a tattoo.   The offender has been arrested and is now in jail.   


According to the story, the plaintiff has alleged  that the apartment owners “ knew or should have known of Juan Lauderdale’s dangerous and exploitative propensities as a child sexual abuser, and despite such knowledge, negligently retained (Juan) Lauderdale and failed to warn those coming into contact with him, including minor plaintiff and the minor plaintiff’s family, of (Juan) Lauderdale’s propensities.” 

The plaintiff has also alleged that, “ As a direct and proximate result of the sexual assault and the negligent conduct of the defendants, minor plaintiff suffered severe and permanent emotional distress, physical manifestations of emotional distress, embarrassment, loss of self-esteem, and other psychological injuries.” The suit says, “These affects are permanent and will abide with the minor plaintiff for her entire life.” 

Keeping in mind that this case is only at the beginning stage, and no factual determinations have been made or any issues litigated, this type of case once again underscores that a higher risk position requires a higher degree of due diligence.  Negligence is essentially a violation of the duty of care, and that duty increase where there is a greater foreseeable risk.   

One of the classic areas where a greater duty of care is needed is apartment buildings where it reasonably foreseeable that great harm can occur if a person with an unsuitable criminal record is entrusted with keys, or has access to tenant under some sort of color of authority.  Based just upon the allegations in the paper, this case may be complicated by an argument that it is not reasonably foreseeable that a worker would entice a young tenant to an apartment, or that such actions were independent of the job duties so that any negligent hiring was not the proximate cause of the injuries.  

These cases can become very complicated depending upon the exact facts that are established through discovery.   Regardless of the final outcome, it does appear that an ounce of prevention can keep this type of situation from occurring the fist place.  

It should be noted that the maintenance worker according to the story was on the sexual offender list due to a sexual offense on young girl in 1996, some 12 years ago.  See the preceding blog about a study that suggests that after a few years, a person is not likely to represent a greater risk then a member of the general population that never offended.

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