This article explores the landowner liability issues of whether to disclose or warn others about future criminal activity that might occur on the premises in the future. The duty to warn others about criminal activity is based on the tort concept of premises liability, while the duty to disclose the presence of criminals in the area is a recent departure from the common law rules of caveat emptor and caveat lessee. Part II of this article describes the historical development in tort law of premises liability for the criminal acts of others. This part also discusses recent trends in premises liability law, including how premises liability theories impact issues of workplace violence, school violence, Internet site liability, terrorist activity, and insurance coverage. While Part II focuses on the landowner's potential duty to protect against criminal acts of third parties, Part III addresses the issue of whether landowners have a duty to disclose or warn of premises susceptibility to criminal acts. Megan's Law legislation, dealing with community notification about the presence of convicted sex offenders, raises a particularly troublesome disclosure issue. Part IV examines landowner liability for refusing to rent or sell to individuals with criminal backgrounds or for disclosing to others the criminal propensity of a third party. Some jurisdictions have protected landowners and their agents from liability for failing to disclose the presence of sex offenders in the neighborhood by legislating that such facts are not material to the transaction. This nondisclosure protection has been incorporated into existing psychological taint or stigma legislation which shields landowners from disclosing facts such as a previous death occurring on the property or that a previous occupant had been infected with AIDS. The article concludes by suggesting that landowners who are aware of reasonably foreseeable criminal activity against occupiers of their premises should have a duty to disclose this information to either prospective or existing occupiers, particularly when there is a potential danger of harm to children.
Shelley Ross Saxer,
"Am I My Brother's Keeper?": Requiring Landowner Disclosure of the Presence of Sex Offenders and Other Criminal Activity,
80 Neb. L. Rev.
Available at: http://digitalcommons.unl.edu/nlr/vol80/iss3/4