A double wrongful death lawsuit in Florida has been filed by the representative of the estates of a mother-son duo who were shot and killed in a murder-suicide by another man who allegedly was trying to rob the son.
The homicides occurred in Stuart at the exclusive Yacht and Country Club, where the gunman apparently gained status as a resident, despite not owning a property there and having an extensive criminal background.
The wrongful death lawsuit alleges negligence on the part of:
- The construction company;
- The property owners’ association/ security company;
- The actual homeowner.
As described in The Daily Business Review, this was, “the perfect storm of failures” by these three defendants. Specifically, the plaintiff alleges negligent security. That is, defendants owed a duty to protect the victims from a foreseeable harm by adhering to existing security procedures.
According to news reports of the incident, the man suspected of committing the murders before turning the gun on himself had been arrested at least nine times prior for 19 different crimes. He was, however, the son of a successful construction company owner.
That construction company had been hired to conduct a series of renovations and repairs on the unit of a resident homeowner within the gated community. These renovations and repairs were to be conducted while she was out-of-town. While she was gone, she allowed this individual free access to her home, where she kept a loaded firearm.
During this time, this individual reportedly formed a friendly relationship with the neighborhood security guards, as well a several of the neighbors. He soon effectively took up residence at the home. He was known by both the association and the guards to be living at this construction client’s residence. He was daily waved through the security gates and he parked directly outside her residence. He was, victims’ attorneys argue, treated as a lawful tenant. This was despite the fact that he’d never passed a criminal background check, as all other residents at the association were required to do.
It is alleged that around this time he began to deal drugs.
Although association rules and regulations prohibited this individual as a non-resident from granting access to other non-residents, both guards at the front gate waved in the victims one evening at the suspect’s request.
Soon after, the mother-and-son were both shot and killed inside the residence and the suspect then killed himself shortly thereafter. Local authorities believe the motive was likely robbery. The male victim, 45, was reportedly friends with the gunman and was asked to come to the residence at his request. However, he could not drive because his license was suspended, so he asked his 72-year-old mother to take him.
The case raises questions about the degree of responsibility property owners and security companies have when screening residents and guests in gated communities. There is a great deal of variation in terms of the security standards these companies employ. Some will check and screen driver’s licenses of guests. Some will require residents to undergo background checks. Some will check the license plates of those who enter.
Questions of liability raised in this wrongful death lawsuit will be watched closely because increasingly, short-term rentals promulgated via channels like Airbnb and VRBO are becoming increasingly common.
Call Fort Lauderdale Injury Attorney Richard Ansara at (954) 761-4011. Serving Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties.
Wrongful Death Suit Against Association Illustrates Perils of Negligent Security, Screening, August 1, 2016, By Michael L. Hyman, Daily Business Review
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Surprise Settlement in Florida Air Bag Liability Lawsuit, July 29, 2016, Fort Lauderdale Negligent Security Attorney Blog