An event for teens in ended tragically in the death of two young men, ages 18 and 14, when shots rang out, just as parents were picking up their children from the event. A wrongful death lawsuit has since been filed, alleging claims ranging from negligence to inadequate security.
The shooting occurred outside of a business known Club Blu in Fort Myers, Florida. The club, which did not serve alcohol, was promoting and hosting events for teens. On the night in question, two young men died of gunshot wounds and sixteen others were injured, including children as young as 12 years old. Police have since arrested three suspects believed to be involved in the shooting.
Understandably, many of the victims and their families are now represented by attorneys and seeking compensation for their injuries. The men believed to have committed the crime, however, are not the only ones that may have legal responsibility for what happened that night.
Attorneys for the injured parties and their families are pursuing not only the alleged criminals, but also the business that was hosting the event, the shopping center in which the business is located, and the company that manages the property. Their lawsuit notes that gun violence has occurred in the recent past at the business in question. It also alleges that, in light of this fact, the club, shopping center, and property manager should have done more to warn customers of the danger and should have taken additional action to protect customers on their property.
The outcome of these Florida lawsuits is uncertain. However, we can analyze how a similar case would be evaluated by a Tennessee court. The Tennessee Supreme Court has determined that the owners of a property can be legally responsible for injuries suffered due to the foreseeable criminal actions that take place on the owner’s property. Businesses and property owners must “take reasonable steps to protect customers” against these foreseeable criminal actions. According to the Court, the foreseeability of particular crime must be judged based on the “the number, frequency, and nature of the crimes” that have taken place on or near the property in question.
The reason for this legal responsibility is that, according to the Tennessee Supreme Court, the property owner is in the best position to know the amount and extent of crime that takes place on or near the property in question. As the Court has explained, while a property owner certainly cannot predict criminal actions of third parties with absolute certainty, the property owner’s failure to take steps to protect their patrons from foreseeable crimes can be a substantial factor in the criminal act being permitted to injure the victim. Knowledge and notice are critical factors in premises liability lawsuits.
The battle over these very issues has already begun in the Fort Myers case. Attorneys for the victims are focusing attention on the prior incidents of gun violence that have taken place at the business in question. However, the business is asserting that there were eight armed guards present on the night of the shooting. The victims’ attorneys will no doubt conduct extensive research on past crimes reported in the area and the steps, if any, taken by the business that was hosting the event, the shopping center in which the business is located, and the company that manages the property.
While we know what factors a Tennessee court would consider in evaluating the shooting in Ft. Myers, it’s impossible to predict the final conclusion a Tennessee court would reach in this particular case or any other. The outcome would be highly fact specific and, ultimately, decided by a judge or a jury. There is, however, an important take-away for victims of violent crime and their families: When seeking legal representation, be sure to retain an attorney who has extensive legal knowledge and experience in the area of negligent security. Call Nahon, Saharovich & Trotz at 1-800-LAW-4004 for a free consultation.