Apartment Owner to Pay Millions for Not Providing Adequate Security


The managers and owners of an apartment complex near the University of South Florida have been ordered by a jury to pay a shooting victim $15.7 million for not doing enough to provide security. A jury awarded former tenant and USF student Lai Chau $5.7 million in economic damages and $10 million in punitive damages after determining a faulty security gate at The Remington Apartments led to the abduction and shooting of Chau, 23.

The apartment’s owners and managers say they plan to appeal the Dec. 16 verdict. An attorney for Chau says the fact the gate and a hole in it have not been repaired since the December 2001 incident may have been a factor in jury deliberations.

Attorney Lyan Goudie told the Tampa Tribune that the high damage award will serve as a warning to other property managers to enhance security for their residents. “Smack them hard,” Goudie said. “Really hard. That’s how you’re going to make them listen.”

In the 2001 incident, Chau was abducted by two attackers who followed her car into the complex because of the slow-moving fence that provided the only protection for residents. They drove her around for a half-hour before forcing her out and shooting her in the head three times. Chau survived and crawled 200 yards to a nearby home to get help. She has since returned to school, though still suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder and depression.

Both her attackers have been convicted with one serving a life sentence in prison and the other a 17-year sentence.

During the trial, Bill Warfield – chief executive of Brookside Properties, which owns the complex – testified that a contractor had been hired to fix the fence but “it’s hard to get people to move as fast as you want to.”

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