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Escambia County, FL

The 19-year-old decedent was visiting a friend, who resided in the defendant’s Pensacola, Florida, apartment complex, when the decedent was shot and killed. The plaintiff alleged that the murder resulted from the defendants’ failure to provide adequate security at the premises. The defendants (the owner and management company for the complex) maintained that they were not responsible for the criminal acts of a third-party.

The fatal shooting occurred at approximately 3:40 a.m. on September 27, ________, at the Sunrise Apartments in Pensacola. Evidence showed that the young decedent was sitting on the front steps of an apartment with his friends. The shooter approached the group and demanded to know who had stolen his uncle’s car. The shooter then shot the decedent once in the head with a shotgun. The decedent died at the scene. He was not employed at the time. There was no evidence that the decedent had any knowledge regarding the theft of the vehicle in question. The shooter was convicted of the decedent’s murder and was sentenced to life in prison.

The plaintiff argued that the Section-8 (HUD supported) complex was located in a high-crime area with numerous prior crimes of violence reported. Police records indicated a prior assault, four aggravated assaults, 55 batteries, 16 aggravated batteries, 30 burglaries, eight robberies and 20 vehicle burglaries during a two-year period between ________ and ________. There were also prior shootings in ________ and ________, according to evidence offered by the plaintiff.

The plaintiff’s security expert opined that there were several security measures, which could have been taken to deter the decedent’s murder. The plaintiff’s expert testified that a security analysis is the first step in evaluating a property’s crime risk. However, the plaintiff argued that the defendant never did a study or solicited specific recommendations to reduce the crime problem there. The plaintiff claimed that a survey or study would have shown that directed patrols by officers with specific post orders would have dramatically reduced crime on the property.

The defense contended that security at the apartments was superior to most other complexes in the area. Testimony established that a sheriff’s deputy was hired for extra duty by the defendant to randomly patrol the complex for seven hours each day. The defense maintained that the killer was intoxicated and had targeted the group. The defense also argued that both the murderer and the decedent were not residents of the complex, and the defendants had no knowledge of their presence on the property in the early morning hours of the shooting.

The defendant argued that the decedent’s murder was not foreseeable, and would not have been prevented by the security measures suggested by the plaintiff.The jury found for the plaintiff in the amount of $________. The case is currently on appeal.

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