Million-Dollar Policy Limits Settlement in Wrongful Death Shooting Case

Butler Kahn recently got a $1,000,000 policy limits settlement in a wrongful death, negligent security case arising from a shooting.  Where someone is hurt or killed by a criminal act at a business, the business can be held responsible where the danger from criminal activity is known or should have been known to a business owner.  A negligent security case is a type of premises liability case.

Negligent security cases can be tough.  It can be difficult to show that the business knew about a danger.  It can also be difficult to show that the business could have done anything to prevent a fatal shooting, particularly in a high-crime area.   Our case involved several challenges that would have made many other lawyers turn down the case.  Through a comprehensive investigation and in-depth legal research, we were able to get a great result for our clients.

Here’s more about the case.

Facts of the Shooting

* The names have been changed for our client’s privacy.

This case arose from a fatal shooting at Vibez Nightclub in Valdosta, Georgia.  A young rapper, Calvin Jones, had just finished a performance at the club, left out the back door, and starting walking into an adjacent parking lot.  As Calvin got to his car in the back parking lot, a gunfight erupted in the area.  As the shooting continued, a stray bullet entered the car, struck Calvin, and killed him.  A suspect was later arrested for Calvin’s murder.

Initial Bad News – No Insurance Coverage for Shooting Case

Calvin’s family hired us to pursue a claim against Vibez.  Our investigation had revealed numerous shootings and other violent criminal activity at and near the nightclub before Calvin was killed, including a fatal shooting that happened a few months prior.  In speaking with witnesses, we learned that the night club did nothing to keep the premises safe.  It seemed like a slam dunk case because we were able to show that the night club knew about the danger of criminal activity but did nothing to keep the area safe.  Unfortunately, we had been unable to find any insurance policy that provided coverage to the nightclub.  We decided to file a lawsuit to use the written discovery process to investigate further.  Through written discovery, we were able to find out that the night club did not have any insurance, meaning there was no money to provide coverage for Calvin’s death.  Many lawyers would have called it quits.

Finding Insurance Coverage for Negligent Security / Premises Liability

We did not give up on Calvin’s family.  We started investigating other potential sources of recovery.  Through our investigation, we learned that the rear parking lot in which the shooting happened was owned by a successful real estate business separate from the owner of the building or the night club.  The business denied any liability since patrons of the nightclub were not allowed to use the parking lot.  In other words, the business claimed that Calvin was a trespasser.  We spoke with witnesses who said that people always parked in the lot while visiting the nightclub and that the owner of the lot knew about it but still failed to do anything.

We argued that because the company should have anticipated people using their parking lot, they should have taken precautions to keep it safe (or keep people out).  The company did none of that.  It didn’t have a gate.  It didn’t have lighting.  It didn’t have cameras.  It did nothing.

Legal Strategy in the Wrongful Death Shooting Case

After identifying the owner, we filed a lawsuit against the business as the sole defendant.  We named only the business owner, so we could utilize a helpful law regarding the apportionment of damages.  Typically, a defendant can blame other parties or non-parties at trial and any verdict against the defendant will be reduced according to the apportionment of fault by the jury.  For example, if we had gotten a jury verdict of $1,000,000 but the jury found the shooter to be 1/3 at-fault and Vibez Nightclub to be 1/3 at fault, then we’d only have been able to recover $333,333.33 from the parking lot owner. However, at the time we filed the lawsuit, there could be no reduction in damages based on fault apportioned to non-parties in cases involving a single defendant.  This was particularly important to our case because significant fault could be apportioned to both the shooter and the night club.

Million-Dollar Settlement for Shooting that caused Wrongful Death

After disclosing our evidence showing numerous prior violent crimes and highlighting the application of the apportionment law, we served what’s called a Rule 68 offer – which is found at O.C.G.A. § 9-11-68.  A Rule 68 offer can be an effective tool for settlement because if the verdict at trial exceeds the offer by 125%, then the defendants are responsible for paying attorney’s fees in addition to the verdict.  In other words, it forces the insurance company to realistically assess the value of the case.

In our Rule 68 offer, we gave the parking lot owner the opportunity to settle the case for the policy limits of $1,000,000.00.  On the thirtieth day, the defendant accepted the offer, and the case was resolved favorably for our clients.

Picture of Matt Kahn
Matt Kahn is an Atlanta personal injury lawyer and a partner at the law firm Butler Kahn. Matt has dedicated his career to fighting for individuals and families who had been harmed by the negligence of others. At Butler Kahn, he has had the honor of helping families who have lost children in motor vehicle accidents and people who were critically injured. He helped a family secure a $45 million settlement to provide lifetime care for their son, who was critically injured in a motorcycle accident. Matt is a graduate of Emory University School of Law and has been recognized as a Super Lawyers’ Rising Star and by Best Lawyers as One to Watch. He has received an Avvo 10.0 Top Attorney rating. Connect with me on LinkedIn

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