On Aug. 6, 2000, Jesus Vasquez broke into an apartment around 8 a.m. where Abigail Vasquez was staying with her parents. After knocking on the door and receiving no answer, he entered the apartment by punching out a temporary piece of plywood where the missing front door windowpane would have been, and turning the inside door handle.

Abigail is the mother of Jesus’ daughter. Jesus confronted Abigail and then stabbed her to death. No one was previously aware of his potential violent character. Jesus was convicted of murder and sentenced to prison.

Purchase Bob Bruss reports online.

In this lawsuit, his minor child, through her guardian, sued the apartment landlord for negligent failure to replace the broken windowpane in the apartment door. In his deposition (presumably taken from prison), Jesus said he would have remained outside the apartment if the missing door windowpane had not provided him with easy access to the apartment.

Evidence showed Abigail’s parents had several times requested their apartment manager to replace the broken windowpane in their door. They had temporarily placed a plywood panel over the area of the missing windowpane. The apartment manager had obtained the materials, costing about $15, but he had not yet replaced the glass.

If you were the judge would you rule the landlord could be held liable for negligence damages due to failure to replace the apartment door windowpane?

The judge said yes!

This is a civil, not a criminal, wrongful death action, the judge explained.

It is up to the jury to decide, the judge emphasized, if the missing windowpane in the apartment door was a substantial factor and if the landlord had a duty, breached that duty, and if there was a reasonably close connection to the resulting death to make the landlord liable for monetary damages to the decedent’s surviving child.

Considering the low $15 cost of replacing the door window glass in relationship to the decedent’s death, which might have been prevented, he continued, the landlord’s negligence is an issue for the jury.

However, the criminal activity of Jesus Vasquez, for which he is now imprisoned, is not an automatic intervening or superseding cause that will relieve the landlord of possible civil liability for Abigail’s death, the judge ruled.

Based on the 2004 California Court of Appeal decision in Vasquez v. Residential Investments Inc., 12 Cal.Rtr.3d 846.

(For more information on Bob Bruss publications, visit his
Real Estate Center
).

***

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