Protecting REALTOR® Liability

September 25, 2023

- By The MAR Legal Team

On August 16th, the highest court in Massachusetts issued its ruling in Hill-Junious vs. UTP Realty LLC. In the case, a patron was murdered outside of a nightclub shortly after a new owner purchased the property and there had been several incidents at the club under the prior owner. The plaintiff argued that a commercial landlord’s duty to prevent reasonably foreseeable criminal acts encompassed a duty to learn of criminal acts that occurred prior to their purchase of the property. MAR provided a legal brief explaining that such a duty would have a harmful impact on properties in lower-income neighborhoods and potentially also harm property owners and real estate professionals by exposing them to liability. Read MAR’s brief.   

MAR’s brief was the basis for several questions at oral argument when Justices asked about impacts of a broad landlord duty on the ability to get loans, the cost of insurance, and the value of property. The court’s decision focused on the facts at hand. Commercial landlords have a duty to take reasonable precautions to protect against reasonably foreseeable risks and may be liable for ignoring criminal activities occurring on their premises that they know or should have known about. However, based on the facts here, the court found that the sudden, unanticipated murder was not a risk that the landlord had the ability to prevent or could have reasonably foreseen, even with knowledge of prior acts of violence at the property, and therefore the landlord had no duty to the plaintiff. Importantly, the Court did not make any sweeping decision that would have required potential purchasers or their real estate agents to investigate prior crimes committed at the property.  Read the full decision.