Fatal Shooting in Bradenton, Florida
Was negligent security to blame for a shooting outside a Manatee County bar that injured five people? If so, do the victims have any recourse against the bar owner?
The incident took place at Tommy Knockers Saloon on 14th Street West. According to police investigators, two groups of people got into a fight in the parking lot. The altercation became physical, and then shots were fired. When first responders arrived, the crowd had dispersed but four gunshot victims were in the parking lot. They were all rushed to a nearby hospital, where a fifth victim joined them later. One victim – 39-year-old Gabriel Conde – did not survive his injuries.
Sheriff’s deputies have only a vague description of the suspect, who reportedly fled the scene with two or three other individuals.
Landowner Liability Issues in Tampa
Many people associate a term like “premises liability” with swimming pool drownings, falls, and other unintentional injuries. But property owners also have a duty to prevent assaults and other intentional torts. The nature and extent of that duty usually depends on the victim’s legal status. Negligent security issues are hot topics in Florida courtrooms. Tampa personal injury lawyer Nicholas Matassini has handled dozens of negligent security issues over the years.
Florida and most other states use a classification system that comes from the old common law. These categories and duties are:
- Trespasser: If the victim had no permission to be on the land and did not benefit the owner in any way, the owner usually has no legal duty. Certain exceptions apply. For example, the attractive nuisance rule protects some child trespassers.
- Licensee: A few victims have permission to be on the land, but their presence does not benefit the owner. Examples include guests of apartment tenants and churchgoers who use a business parking lot on Sundays. In these situations, owners have a duty to warn these individuals about any latent (hidden) defects.
- Invitee: Most people are invitees, since their presence on the land confers a benefit on the owner and they have express or implied permission to be on the land. That benefit could be economic, like a bar patron, or noneconomic, like a social guest at a home. Owners have a duty of ordinary care to protect invitees. That includes things like providing adequate security.
In addition to shootings, other examples of inadequate security include burned-out security lights, broken perimeter fences, inadequate staffing.
Establishing Liability in a Tampa Negligent Security Case
First, the victim/plaintiff must establish that the owner knew about the inadequate security. Both direct evidence of actual knowledge and circumstantial evidence of constructive knowledge (should have known) are admissible. Actual knowledge often involves a “smoking gun” memo. Lawyers often uncover such evidence during the discovery process. As for constructive knowledge, most Florida courts use some variation of the time/notice rule. The more time passes, the more likely notice becomes.
Second, the injury must be foreseeable. There are several elements to consider on this point, including:
- Overall Risk of Incident: Whenever alcohol is involved, emotions often get laid bare. That could be relatively positive emotions as well as negative ones, like anger. Most bars have relatively tight security for just this reason.
- Prior Similar Incidents: If there has been a shooting or near-shooting at this particular bar within the last year or so, another shooting was certainly a foreseeable incident. Liability may attach on this basis alone.
- Similar Incidents in Area: The same analysis applies if there were other shootings or violent crime at other bars in the immediate area.
Damages in a Tampa, Florida negligent security case usually include compensation for both economic losses, such as medical bills, and noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering. Additional punitive damages may be available as well in some cases depending on the facts.
Contact Aggressive Lawyers
Security lapses often cause serious injuries. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury attorney in Tampa, contact The Matassini Law Firm, P.A. Home and hospital visits are available.