Landlord Duty to Protect Tenant from a Criminal Attack
As a rule, a defendant has no duty to protect another person from a deliberate criminal attack by a third person. Stubbs v. Panek, 829 S.W.2d 544, 546 (Mo. App. 1994); see also Scheibel v. Hillis, 531 S.W.2d 285, 288 (Mo. banc 1976).
However, an exception to this rule exists when:
(1) a landlord-tenant relationship exists between two parties,
(2) "other 'special circumstances' are present warranting, as a matter of policy, the shift of responsibility for the tenant's security from the tenant to the landlord." Vittengl v. Fox, 967 S.W.2d 269, 275 (Mo. App. 1998).
In the landlord-tenant exception, "it is not the foreseeability of crime in general, but the existence of special circumstances, which gives rise to the duty [in a landlord] to provide security" for the tenant. Kopoian v. George W. Miller & Co., Inc., 901 S.W.2d 63, 74 (Mo. App. 1995).
"Special circumstances" in this context means evidence that shows the risk of being attacked was increased by some action or failure of the landlord; i.e., the landlord's action or inaction presented the criminals with a particular focus or unique opportunity for their criminal activities. Id.