Austin, TX (Law Firm Newswire) January 31, 2012 – This case demonstrates that many wrongful death cases may also involve criminal and civil trials with multiple defendants cited.
“This reported case has two facets: one relating to a criminal charge and one relating to a wrongful death lawsuit,” explained Brooks Schuelke, an Austin personal injury lawyer with Perlmutter & Schuelke, L.L.P. “Additionally, this case also shows that when it comes to filing a wrongful death lawsuit, there is often more than one person listed as a defendant.”
Jane Doe’s (names have been changed to protect the victims) 18-year-old son was shot to death last year. He was a victim of a stray bullet that was fired off at a party. He was a bystander, in the wrong place at the wrong time, and paid with his life. The list of defendants in this case included four others: a property investment company that owned the place where the party happened, the man who rented the place for the party, and the two party chaperones.
The main point of the civil wrongful death lawsuit is that the facility itself was negligently run and that the people supposedly in charge of running the party, and the erstwhile chaperones, did not do their jobs properly. It was a graduation party that was only supposed to have 70 invited guests. Thanks to social media, hundreds of uninvited people also showed up. The virtually inevitable happened when a fight started and a young man got hit in the nose.
The chaperones tossed the fighters out, including the young man with the injured nose. He returned to the party, armed and dangerous and started shooting into the crowd outside the party. Several were injured by the stray bullets, and Jane Doe’s son was killed. The shooter fled the scene, but turned himself into the police the next day.
The wrongful death lawsuit alleges that the property owner did not monitor their premises for safety, that it rented it to unqualified individuals, allowed uninvited guests on the premises and had no back up plans in place that could have stopped the violence that took place. The defence suggested there was no way the property owner could have anticipated or stopped the shooting death.
What the jury will ultimately decide is up to them. “Based on the evidence, the shooter was not only negligent, but criminally negligent. His criminal charges will be dealt with first, and the civil lawsuit will follow. Interestingly, the shooter was out on bail for the incident until a photo of him came to light showing a clear violation of his bail agreement – to wit his violation of his 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew,” explained Schuelke.
Could the property owner, chaperones, and the man who rented the hall know in advance that a shooting death would take place? That will be the key question in the trial. While they may have arrived at the conclusion something bad could happen with all the uninvited people showing up, it does not necessarily mean that something bad would happen. As it turned out, someone was killed. However, whether that could have reasonably been anticipated is another question.
While this case sounds unusual, it isn’t. In fact, it is remarkably similar to a 2010 Texas Supreme Court case, Del Lago Partners, Inc. v. Smith. In that case, the Texas Supreme Court affirmed a $1.48 million personal injury jury verdict for injuries caused when one bar patron assaulted another during a closing-time melee between members of a fraternity and members of a wedding party. In that case, the Court allowed the verdict to stand because ongoing tensions between the groups throughout the night, combined with the bar’s continuing service of alcohol to those involved, put the bar on notice that there was an unreasonably dangerous situation brewing.
“Wrongful death cases are often complex and confusing for those involved. Our office has a great deal of experience in this area and is able to provide you with extremely effective legal representation. Call us to find out where you stand legally,” Schuelke suggested.
Perlmutter & Schuelke, LLP
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Austin, Texas 78703-4868
Call (512) 476-4944