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Suing Homeowners for Sexual Assault

No one wants anyone to be hurt or assaulted when visiting their home, but when homeowners are negligent or don't actively try to prevent such situations from happening, they are partially responsible for resulting actions. That being said, it follows that homeowners may be held liable for sexual assault cases in certain circumstances. This article outlines the unique roles and responsibilities that homeowners have to their visitors, and how negligence of these roles can have disastrous repercussions.

When is a Homeowner Liable?

As the property owner, a homeowner is held to certain premises liability standards that all property owners are held to. The premises should be free of any hazards or dangerous conditions, and if there is a non-obvious hazard, the visitor must be warned about it. The standards of care are different depending on the classification of visitor (invitee, licensee, or trespasser). To find out about the differences between each classification for cases of sexual assault, read the article onproperty owners and sexual assault.

Here are some examples of cases that could happen, and ways to determine whether or not the homeowner may be liable.
  1. A woman has two children, a 15-year-old boy and a 12-year-old girl. She is aware that the 15-year-old has already assaulted one of the neighbor's children. Her 12-year-old girl invites a friend over, and instead of monitoring the children closely while they play, she leaves the house and heads to the grocery store. While she is gone, the 15-year-old boy gets his sister to make a phone call and assaults her 11-year-old friend after she leaves the room. In this case, since the parent of the offender was aware that her son had a problem and neglected to supervise him responsibly, she (as homeowner) would be held liable for his actions, and could be sued for her negligent supervision.

  2. A couple throws a house party at their residence, and they serve their guests an unmonitored amount of alcohol. The hosts believe this isn't a problem because everyone is welcome to stay at the home and won't have to drive after drinking. However, during the party, a man wanders off into another area of the house and assaults a woman who has passed out from the effects of the alcohol. Both the perpetrator and the property owners could be sued in this case. Some might think this seems unfair, but the property owners are also responsible because alcohol played a major role in the incident. Even though they may have had no idea that their guest would assault someone, they are held to the reasonable person standard in which they should have known that both judgement and defense mechanisms are greatly reduced by having a high blood alcohol content.

  3. In the final example, a woman named Kristy invites her friend Ben over for dinner. After they finish eating dinner, Kristy tells Ben that she would like to be more than friends. Ben tells her that he does not feel the same way, and that he should probably be heading home. Kristy loses control of her emotions and tries to convince him to stay. When he doesn't, she assaults him. Kristy is obviously liable for this assault, and as a homeowner, her insurance may be pursued as part of the claim.

Homeowner's Insurance

One problem with holding an individual and/or homeowner liable for sexual assault in some cases is that they may not actually have the funds to appropriately compensate the victim. However, this is where homeowner's insurance plays a major role in the claim. Because insurance companies write liability policies that cover negligence, homeowner policies can often be on the hook when the sexual act includes an accompanying act of negligence. Many homeowner policies also have built-in umbrella coverage that can be applied any time the insured does anything negligent, even when it is not at their home.

How to proceed with your claim

If you're ready to pursue a claim, it is important to have a representative that understands the sensitivity and confidentiality that victims of sexual assault depend on. Here at Grossman Law, we share a common view with most of our clients: we want the offenders to be responsible for their actions so that that the same thing will not happen to anyone else, and we want our clients to receive compensation for their injuries. If you think you have a claim or simply want to ask us a question, don't hesitate to call our office. We can be reached at (855)326-0000.