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It took more than six years, but last week a woman who was beaten, raped and robbed at her Marietta, Ga., apartment was awarded $9 million in compensatory damages by a Fulton County State Court jury. One premises liability expert, Gilbert H. Deitch, said $9 million was the largest award he had ever heard for an apartment rape case. The sum also floored the lawyer representing the apartment owners. “Not to take anything away from that woman’s suffering, but we were shocked at the amount,” said defense attorney Charles Richard “Chip” Carson of Atlanta’s Nall & Miller. “It was nine or 10 times larger than anything we’d contemplated during trial,” added Carson, who made the unusual move in the middle of the trial of admitting the defendant was liable for the attack and focused only on arguing over damages. Peter A. Law, the plaintiffs counsel, said the circumstances surrounding the attack — and testimony concerning the apartment complex’s security and maintenance — spurred jurors to award the amount he had recommended during the two-day trial. Even though the attack occurred in Cobb County, Ga., the trial was held in Fulton, Ga., because the owners and management company are registered there. M.H. v. EPT Management Company and TVO Hampton Village Partners LLP, No. CV-02-vs-034714H (Fult. St. Dec. 14, 2005). The victim was leaving her Hampton Village apartment about 9 p.m. on July 24, 1999, when she was accosted, said Law. “Two guys stick a gun in her back, shoved her in the apartment, and one guy robbed the place while the other one raped her,” he said. The two assailants ran away and were never caught, he said. The complaint accused the defendants of failing to properly maintain and secure the apartment complex, and of creating a nuisance “by reason of their failure to remedy the dangerous condition of crime incidents that persisted over a period of time as a continuous and repetitious condition.” Among the witnesses called to testify, said Law, were two police officers, one of whom handled his client’s case and another who handled another rape there less than two years earlier. Although she eventually recovered from her physical wounds, said Law, “my client suffered physically, mentally and emotionally. They choked her and tied her up. … She was unable to function normally for a long time.” The case progressed somewhat erratically after the rape, said Law, who was called in shortly before it went to trial. “The original lawyers handling it had it dismissed, then refiled. After it was docketed on the trial calendar, they called us in. � We had about 100 witnesses to call.” The case went to mediation, but that failed, he said. “Then, six weeks ago, they offered us $60,000; before trial, they offered $150,000, and during trial they offered $375,000.” The case was going so well for the plaintiff that, after 10 witnesses had testified, the defendants decided to admit fault, said Law. Fulton State Court Chief Judge A.L Thompson ordered a directed verdict. Carson declined to comment on his reasons for conceding and said his clients hadn’t made any decisions yet as to whether to appeal the award. Deitch, of Atlanta’s Bauer & Deitch, said that, given the defense’s concession of liability, he doubted an appeal would succeed. “I’ve been representing victims of crime in apartment complexes for 25 years,” he said, “and I’ve never had defense counsel admit liability. … If there’s no issue of law, there’s not a lot to appeal.” Deitch said the $9 million verdict was the largest he had ever heard for an apartment rape case, but he knew of a $13 million award in Gwinnett County for a murder case. The verdict “is good news for crime victims, and bad news for landlords,” said Deitch. “And that’s the way it should be.”

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