Good Samaritans are often lauded when they intervene in potentially perilous situations to help others. But are there grounds to assert negligence for those who fail to intervene in such circumstances?
This is what is being alleged in a wrongful death lawsuit in Ohio, where a woman and her two daughters were gunned down by her husband at a Cracker Barrel restaurant after a heated confrontation that ensued when she told him she was leaving him. The family had gone to the restaurant for a birthday dinner with their two 10-year-old girls when the events took a turn. The husband reportedly threatened to, “kill them all,” shouted an expletive while paying for the bill, accidentally dropped several shotgun shells from his pocket. According to the wrongful death lawsuit, filed by the woman’s brother, the girls’ uncle, the mother called a friend and the police and begged the manger to allow her and her daughters to hide in the restaurant’s walk-in cooler. The manager allegedly refused the request, telling her the restaurant doesn’t get involved in domestic disputes.
Her husband returned with a shotgun and killed her and her two daughters, who were hiding in the restroom. Police then shot and killed the gunman. An attorney for plaintiff alleges the woman and her daughters were left to take care of themselves in a dangerous situation. He cited the protocol that many chain restaurants and retail facilities have to deal with violent or active shooter situations, and argued that such incidents, while terrifying, are in fact foreseeable.
A judge recently denied a defense motion for summary judgement, which means the case is now slated for trial in March, if it isn’t settled first.
According to guidelines produced by the National Retail Federation, most of the time when shots are fired, the motive or cause may not be determined for hours, days or even weeks. That’s why the protocols in place serve to assist restaurants and other businesses responding to situations of shots fired in robberies, workplace violence incidents, civil unrest or other shooting incidents.
Part of appropriately responding to active shooter situations is preparing for it. That means formulating clear step-by-step after gathering input from human resources, facilities, operations, safety and training departments as well as local law enforcement and other emergency responders. The NRF notes that this includes “coordinating a hide out/ shelter in place/ escape plans.” These would be things like:
- Identifying a potential hide-out/ shelter in place location that are safe within the facility.
- Designate an evacuation meeting location and inform all employees about that, as well as at least two evacuation routes.
- Train employees to encourage customers to follow them to the evacuation area.
- Train workers not to leave the safe place until instructed to do so by law enforcement.
The NRF goes on to indicate that while a shooting incident isn’t what businesses or customers or employees expect when they go to work or are enjoying a meal or shopping, but there is historical precedent to indicate that these are situations for which businesses need to prepare. Instinctively, most people panic in this kind of situation. But when managers and employees are trained on the basics of crisis management, it can make a huge difference and potentially save lives. Active shooter situations aren’t necessarily preventable in every case, but losses can be minimized by following pre-set response guidelines.
Wrongful death lawsuits may be explored in cases where businesses failed to develop or follow certain crisis responses to emergency situations.
Call Fort Lauderdale Injury Attorney Richard Ansara at (954) 761-4011. Serving Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties.
Lawsuit against Cracker Barrel in 2012 domestic shooting can go forward, judge rules, Dec. 30, 2016, By Cory Shaffer, Cleveland.com
More Blog Entries:
Family Awarded $26M for Teen’s Wrongful Death on Tour Bus, Dec. 26, 2016, Fort Lauderdale Wrongful Death Lawyer Blog