Can I sue an apartment complex for identity theft if it didnot effectively secure my personal information?

UPDATED: Oct 3, 2010

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Can I sue an apartment complex for identity theft if it didnot effectively secure my personal information?

I was affected by identity theft due to my old apartment complex management not locking up my file. Someone broke into the office and stole my file and used my information for illegal activities.

Asked on October 3, 2010 under Real Estate Law, California


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 12 years ago | Contributor

If, as you say, someone "broke into" the office and stole your file, then the landlord is probably NOT liable. Liability comes from one of two things as a general matter:

1) An intentional bad act--and unless you believe (and think you can prove) that you landlord colluded in the theft, there would be no intentional liability.

2) Negligence, or unreasonable carelessness. Here, the problem is that it's not necessarily "unreasonably" careless to not lock up the file itself if it was in a locked or otherwise secure office. It may be that how the landlord kept the file was perfectly reasonable.

As a general matter, people and businesses are not automatically liable for the criminal acts of unrelated parties; so the criminal theft may absolve your landlord of liability, as long  as how they kept files was not unreasonable.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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