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Escambia County, FL

This action arose from the death of the decedent, a man in his 30s, after he was shot with an AK-47 assault rifle in the parking lot of a Waffle House restaurant operated by the defendant. The plaintiff alleged that the defendant failed to implement adequate security to prevent the crime. The defendant maintained that the crime statistics for the location did not warrant the security measures advocated by the plaintiff. The defense also contended that the shooter was a determined criminal who would not have been deterred by additional security measures.

The plaintiff and his friend were at the defendant’s Waffle House in Pensacola after a night out on October 27, ________. At 3:00 a.m. they decided to go elsewhere when an altercation erupted in the in parking lot. In an apparent case of mistaken identity, the shooter opened fire with an AK-47 assault rifle on the decedent’s retreating rental car. The decedent was killed and his friend was wounded. The claim brought by the decedent’s friend remains pending. The primary suspect in the shooting was murdered before he could be arrested.

It was believed that the shooter attempted to rob someone else in the parking lot. The initial robbery victim’s friend reportedly struck the shooter in the head with a salsa bottle and both fell to the ground. The shooter then retrieved his AK-47 and began firing at the decedent’s vehicle.

The plaintiff alleged that the restaurant was located in a high crime area. The plaintiff’s security experts opined that the defendant was negligent in failing to have an armed, uniformed sheriff’s officer on the premises with a marked police car which would have deterred the crime.

The defendant argued that the location met industry standards for lighting, had only a single entrance to the parking lot, a two-door (vestibule) ingress/egress and fencing on its unprotected side. The defendant’s security expert opined that the crime statistics for the location were comparable to the national average and did not warrant the additional security measures proposed by the plaintiff’s experts. The defense claimed that industry standards did not support the necessity for a uniformed, armed sheriff’s officer and police vehicle to be stationed in the restaurant parking lot.

The defense also argued that the shooter was a determined criminal with an AK-47 rifle who would not have been deterred by additional security measures. Defense counsel introduced a similar AK-47 assault rifle for the jury to view.The jury found no negligence on the part of the defendant which was a legal cause of injury to the decedent. The defendant received a cost judgment against the plaintiff.

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