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New Jersey Personal Injury Lawyers Investigating Negligent Security Claims Involving Alleged Serial Rapist, Rasheed Powell- Union County- Elizabeth, Linden Hotels and Motels

New Jersey Attorneys Handling Negligent Security, Crime Victim Claims

According to the office of the Union County, New Jersey Prosecutor, Rasheed Powell, 36, of Elizabeth, New Jersey, Union County, was arrested on serial sexual assault charge. The allegations include that he repeatedly broke into couples’ motel or hotel rooms, forced them to engage in sexual acts and then ordered the male into the bathroom before sexually assaulting the female. Law enforcement investigators say Rasheed Powell targeted at least six couples who were checking into motels in Linden and Elizabeth on weekend nights beginning in early March, 2012. Rasheed Powell apparently used a white Acura MDX with Pennsylvania license plates, registered to an address in Easton to commit the crimes. Powell would allegedly target couples with a hand gun as they walked toward their rooms.

Police believe Powell targeted at least six couples that were checking into hotels along Routes 1&9 in Union County, New Jersey. The police used forensic science and other evidence to identify Powell as the alleged assailant. The Springfield Police Department and Elizabeth Police Department, working under the direction of the Prosecutor’s Sex Crimes Unit, were able to capture Rasheed Powell when he arrived at municipal court in Springfield, New Jersey for a traffic violation. The assaults allegedly took place at the Swan Motel in Linden, the Benedict Motel in Linden, the Spring Lane Motel in Elizabeth, and the Royal Motel in Elizabeth. Powell would allegedly begin his attacks on busy weekend nights at these establishments.

Powell is charged with 10 counts of first degree aggravated sexual assault, two counts of first degree attempted aggravated sexual assault, 12 counts of first degree robbery and six counts of second degree possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose. Upon arrest we was sent to the Union County Jail in lieu of $3 million bail.

The New Jersey personal injury lawyers are involved in investigating negligent security claim on behalf of motel patrons who were assaulted by alleged sexual predator, Rasheed Powell. Motels and hotels are required to follow basic safety and security rules to provide reasonable security protection for their business patrons against people like Rasheed Powell who operate in high crime areas. When hotels and motels fail to take reasonable security measures, members of the community that stay in hotels or motels are needlessly endangered.

It is well settled in New Jersey that business owners and landlords have a duty to protect patrons and tenants from foreseeable criminal acts of third parties. Clohesy v. Food Circus Supermarkets, Inc., 149 N.J. 496, 500, 516 17 (1997) (supermarket liable in negligent security for customer’s murder after her abduction from parking lot); Butler v. Acme Mkts., Inc., 89 N.J. 270, 274 (1982) (supermarket liable to customer who was mugged in parking lot); Trentacost v. Brussel, 82 N.J. 214, 231 32 (1980) (imposing liability on landlord for failure to “take reasonable security measures for tenant protection on the premises”); Braitman v. Overlook Terrace Corp., 68 N.J. 368, 371 72, 382 83 (1975) (holding landlord could be liable for burglary of tenant’s apartment because landlord had breached duty of care by failing to provide functioning deadbolt lock).

When a hotel or motel knows or should know of a pattern of criminal activity on its premises that poses a foreseeable risk of harm to his tenants and their guests and does not take reasonable steps to meet the danger, he cannot escape liability merely because the criminal act was committed by a third party who was not within his control. See Trentacost, 82 N.J. at 222; see also Taneian v. Meghrigian, 15 N.J. 267 (1954) at 281 (describing landlord’s duty of reasonable care to protect tenants and their social guests against dangers in common areas); Scully v. Fitzgerald, 179 N.J. 114 (2004) (holding that landlord owes duty “to take reasonable steps to curtail the dangerous activities” on premises “of which he should be aware and that pose a hazard to the life and property of other tenants”); Williams v. Gorman, 214 N.J.Super. 517, 523 (App.Div.1986) (asserting that landlord has duty to protect tenant from other tenant’s foreseeable criminal acts), cert. denied, 107 N.J. 111 (1987).

As the Court held in Clohesy, foreseeability does not require the existence of prior similar criminal incidents, but depends instead on an evaluation of the totality of the circumstances. Clohesy supra, 149 N.J. at 506-08. In this regard, the Supreme Court in both Butler v. Acme and Clohesy v. Food Circus adopted the Restatement (Second) of Torts Section 344, Comment (f) as a standard for determining in cases of injury by third persons “which criminal incidents may give rise to liability.” Butler, 89 N.J. at 280; Clohesy, 149 N.J. at 506-07. The Restatement articulates the duty owed by a proprietor of premises to those who enter the premises as follows:

A possessor of land who holds it open to the public for entry for his business purposes is subject to liability to members of the public while they are upon the land for such a purpose, for physical harm caused by the accidental, negligent, or intentionally harmful acts of third persons or animals, and by the failure of the possessor to exercise reasonable care to (a) discover that such acts are being done or are likely to be done, or (b) give a warning adequate to enable the visitors to avoid the harm, or otherwise to protect them against it.

Restatement (Second) of Torts, § 344 at 223-234 (1965). The official comment states:

f. Duty to police premises. Since the possessor is not an insurer of the visitor’s safety, he is ordinarily under no duty to exercise any care until he knows or has reason to know that the acts of the third person are occurring, or are about to occur. He may, however, know or have reason to know, from past experience, that there is a likelihood of conduct on the part of third persons in general which is likely to endanger the safety of the visitor even though he has no reason to expect it on the part of any particular individual. If the place or character of his business, or his past experience, is such that he should reasonably anticipate careless or criminal conduct on the part of the third persons, either generally or at some particular time, he may be under a duty to take precautions against it, and to provide a reasonably sufficient number of servants to afford a reasonable protection.

Restatement (Second) of Torts, § 344 at 225-226, Comment (f) (1965). See also, e.g., J.S. v. R.T.H.155 N.J. 330 (1998) at 338; James v. Arms Technology, Inc., 359 N.J.Super. 291, 324 (App.Div.2003); Morris v. Krauszer’s Food Stores, 300 N.J.Super. 529, 535 (App.Div.1997); Gaita v. Laurel Grove Cemetery Co., 323 N.J.Super. 89, 94-96 (Law Div.1998). The Supreme Court has embraced a liberal negligent security standard as a matter of public interest. Butler, 89 N.J. at 280 (imposing duty because store is in the best position to provide either warnings or adequate protection for its patrons and because the public interest lies in providing a reasonably safe place for a patron to shop).

For example, in Butler, 89 N.J. 270 (1982), the plaintiff customer was assaulted in the parking lot after having just finished shopping at the defendant supermarket. The plaintiff contended Acme was negligent in failing to provide a safe place in which to shop and park. Id. at 274. The area had a history of criminal activity, including 7 muggings over the course of a year. Additionally, although Acme had hired off-duty police officers to supply security for the Acme market on certain evenings, only one security officer was on duty inside the store at the time of the attack. Moreover, no signs or warnings were posted advising the patrons of the possibility of criminal attack. Id. at 274-75.

The Supreme Court held that Acme owed a duty of reasonable care to safeguard its business invitees from criminal acts of third persons. Id. at 280. It was reasonable for the jury to determine that absent warnings, hiring one guard who primarily remained inside the store was an insufficient response in light of the known, repeated history of attacks on the premises. Id. The Court further held that Acme as the business invitor is in the best position to provide either warnings or adequate protection for its patrons when the risk of injury is prevalent under certain conditions, and the public interest lies in providing a reasonably safe place for a patron to shop. Id. at 284.

The Clark Law Firm, PC, an established New Jersey accident case law firm, is involved in investigating negligent security claims on behalf of motel patrons who were assaulted by Rasheed Powell. If you have any information on these matters that you would be willing to share with our office we would like to hear from you. If you or a loved one has been the victim of a criminal act in a hotel or motel and are interested in legal advice, contact the experienced personal injury attorneys for negligent security claims at the Clark Law Firm, PC. Our team is experienced in handling negligent security claims on behalf of crime victims. When hotels and motels that fail to provide adequate security are held responsible, the community is made safer. Contact us today via the form on our contact page or phone at 877-841-8855.

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