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Caught in the Crossfire



In Castaneda v. Olsher, a bystander was struck by a bullet in a gang shootout in a mobile home park. The shooter was the invited friend of the resident son of the non-resident renter of the trailer space. The bystander sued the park owner, arguing that the owner had a duty to refuse to rent to gang members or to evict gang members. The court held that landowners do not have a legal duty to refuse to rent to suspected gang members or to evict suspected gang members where there has been no prior similar incidents of gang violence. As PLF argued and the court noted, imposition of such a duty likely would result in refusal to rent or eviction based on ethnicity, age, or other forbidden categories and also would run afoul of the Mobile Home Residency Law, which permits refusal to rent or eviction only under the most narrow circumstances.

Gang violence presents special difficulties for landowners. It is difficult, if not impossible, for mobilehome park owners to investigate criminal backgrounds of tenants, or minor children of tenants, much less guests of children of tenants (as was the shooter in this case), to determine whether a particular person on the premises poses a threat to residents. In California, criminal intelligence records are sealed such that police cannot even inform the delinquent's parents that he is affiliated with a gang. So while the presence of gang members may well suggest the foreseeability of gang violence, courts must consider the whole legal picture before imposing a duty based on that foreseeability.

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Isaac Gorodetski
Project Manager,
Center for Legal Policy at the
Manhattan Institute
igorodetski@manhattan-institute.org

Katherine Lazarski
Press Officer,
Manhattan Institute
klazarski@manhattan-institute.org

 

Published by the Manhattan Institute

The Manhattan Insitute's Center for Legal Policy.