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

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 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.


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