Virginia Lawyers Weekly//February 28, 2022
Virginia Lawyers Weekly//February 28, 2022//
Type of action: Premises liability
Injuries alleged: Plaintiff sued for $22 million, alleging she suffered fractured bones and severe, chronic post traumatic stress disorder after being assaulted in her condominium unit, because the unit owners association failed to provide adequate security, which was promised to her when she bought her condominium
Name of case: Letellier v. The Atrium Condominium Unit Owners Association of Arlington
Court: Arlington Circuit Court
Case no.: CL 19-1103
Tried before: Jury
Name of judge or mediator: Judge Daniel Fiore
Date resolved: 12/16/2021
Verdict or settlement: Verdict
Amount: $0 (defense)
Attorneys for defendant (and city): Coreen Silverman and Jessica A. Swauger, Richmond
Description of case: On May 7, 2017, Richard Lowe entered the garage of the Atrium Condominium and waited until a resident exited the building to enter. He knocked on one door claiming to be maintenance there to check a water leak. The resident called the front desk, which had one person working, and the front desk staff told her not to open her door unless she received a call from the front desk. A few minutes later, a second resident on another floor called the front desk and informed the front desk attendant that someone knocked on her door claiming to be maintenance there to fix a water leak. The front desk attendant left to investigate. One minute after receiving the second call, a third caller informed her that someone was screaming.
The front desk attendant proceeded to investigate and upon arriving on the floor, the plaintiff was seen running from her unit screaming. Lowe had knocked on her door claiming to be from maintenance there to investigate a water leak. He was not wearing an Atrium uniform. The front desk attendant called 911 and the police arrived four minutes after the call. Lowe exited the building at the same time the 911 called was made.
Plaintiff alleged defendant unit association failed to provide promised security and breached the standard of care by failing to have two persons working at the front desk, its employee failing to conduct patrol of the building and premises, failing to have employees monitor the 30-plus security cameras, its employee failing to use a public address system to notify residents not to open their doors and failing to call 911 following the first call about the intruder.
Plaintiff’s security expert testified that Atrium breached the national building standard of care, which led to the assault. Plaintiff’s medical expert, Dr. Gold, testified that plaintiff suffered severe and chronic PTSD from the physical and sexual assault. Plaintiff did not testify about her damages.
Defense security expert testified that Atrium complied with the building standard of care required of multiresidential buildings in Arlington. Defendant did not present any medical expert to rebut Dr. Gold. Instead, defendant challenged the foundation and bases of Dr. Gold’s conclusion by focusing on her failure to interview plaintiff’s family, friends and coworkers to corroborate plaintiff’s reported symptoms.
The jury deliberated for four hours and fifteen minutes before returning a verdict in favor of the defendant.
Coreen Silverman, counsel for the defendant, provided case information.