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Negligent Security and Wrongful Death at a Florida Condo Complex

Negligent security lawsuits are increasingly being filed as their is a growing recognition of the responsibility property owners have to tenants and patrons.

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Most of these lawsuits involve some type of assault and battery crime, though roughly a quarter stem from sexual assaults and about 15 percent from wrongful death claims. Robberies, home invasions and false imprisonment cases, too, could be the basis of a negligent security claim. The majority of plaintiffs are usually customers or guests of businesses, though some are also employees. A slim percentage are trespassers. Research has shown plaintiffs are more often prevailing in these cases.

One case in Florida that has gained some attention involve the 2014 murder-suicide in which a mother and son were shot and killed in an apparent robbery by a man who soon after turned the gun on himself.

According to The Daily Business Review,  the gunman had an extensive criminal record that included at least nine different arrests for 19 separate crimes. Despite this face, he was allowed to take up residence in a gated community that normally required residents to undergo extensive background checks.

His case apparently slipped through the cracks because the owner of the home, who was not residing in the condo at the time, was having some construction remodeling work done by the gunman’s father’s construction company.

As Florida court records would later show, the gunman reportedly formed a relationship with the security guards who were stationed at the front of the community, as well as with some neighbors. When he took up residence at the location – which was equipped with a loaded rifle and ammunition – no one challenged this.

The association for the community had rules that prohibited non-residents from granting access to the community by other non-residents. However, when this individual requested access from the security guards to the mother-and-son duo one afternoon, this was not questioned.

Apparently, the gunman and the son (in his 40s) were friends, and the gunman knew he often carried large amounts of cash. He asked the son to meet him at his “home.” The son was unable to drive due to a suspended license, so he asked his mother to do so.

It’s not exactly clear what happened at that point or the kind of exchange the three had, but when it was over, the mother and son were shot dead and the gunman soon after committed suicide.

In a wrongful death lawsuit filed by representatives of plaintiffs’ estates, it is alleged there were several failures of negligent security:

The contractor was negligent in hiring the criminal son of the owner. The homeowner was negligent in allowing this individual to become a permitted resident of the community under her authority, as she turned the keys over to him. And finally, the association was negligent in allowing its security and screening protocols to be completely disregarded at various intervals in the months leading up to this incident.

Those are the allegations. Whether plaintiffs will be successful will depend on whether the court finds these entities owed a duty of care to decedents that was breached.

Different communities have varying guest access screening measures, and the extent to which those are necessary and adequately drafted and followed will be matters for the court to decide.

Call Associates and Bruce L. Scheiner, Attorneys for the Injured, at 1-800-646-1210.

Additional Resources:

Wrongful Death Suit Against Association Illustrates Perils of Negligent Security, Screening, August 1, 2016, By Michael L. Hyman, Daily Business Review

More Blog Entries:

Maree v. Neuwirth – Nursing Home Negligence Lawsuit Complicated by Organizational Structure, June 20, 2016, Fort Myers Negligent Security Lawyer Blog