The Superior Court recently held a condominium trust, condominium property management company, and concierge services provider owed residents a duty of care to protect against foreseeable crime by third parties who enter through common areas. Dr. Richard Field and Dr. Lina Bolanos lived in a large condominium building in South Boston, managed by Bayberry Management LLC (“Bayberry”). Court Square Press Building Condominium Trust (“the Trust”) is the condominium association for the building. Highbridge Concierge, Inc. (“Highbridge”) provided concierge services to the building. The Trust retained the services of both Bayberry and Highbridge (collectively “Defendants”) for maintenance and security of the building.
In May 2017, Drs. Field and Bolanos were murdered by Bampumim Teixeira, a former concierge from their building, after he entered the condominium building through a garage, accessed an elevator to a residential floor, and then took an unlocked stairway to the penthouse floor, where the doctors resided. Teixeira murdered the doctors in their home. Teixeira had entered the garage behind the vehicle of one of Highbridge’s staff members. The Trust, Bayberry and Highbridge were aware of security gaps on the property. Previous instances of thefts and vandalism had been caused by third parties entering the garage behind authorized vehicles occurred in the building. In 2015, Dr. Field alerted Bayberry to unrestricted access to the penthouse level through internal stairways, despite the fact the penthouse level was meant to have restricted access. However, Bayberry did not make any access changes after Dr. Field raised the issue.
The estates of Drs. Field and Bolanos brought common law negligence claims and claims under the wrongful death statute against Defendants. Defendants moved for summary judgment arguing they owed no duty to Drs. Field and Bolanos. The Court granted summary judgment as to the common law negligence claims on the grounds that the wrongful death statue provides the exclusive remedy for damages related to wrongful death.
The Court denied summary judgment as to the wrongful death counts, rejecting Defendants’ arguments and finding that Defendants owed residents a duty of care. The Court held the Trust, and condominium associations generally, owe their residents the same duty of care as landlords owe to tenants in common areas. The Court held Bayberry also owed a duty of care to residents, as the Trust contracted Bayberry to provide security services to the building. Similarly, the Court found Highbridge owed a duty of care, as their Concierge Service Manual trains employees on providing security services and how to react to potential criminal activity. Additionally, the Court found that the harm suffered by the doctors was reasonably foreseeable given the past issues with unauthorized entry to the garage and Dr. Field’s emails regarding access to the penthouse level.