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Dade County, Florida

The plaintiff, a former student at Southridge High School in Dade County, was shot in the neck when he drove to the student parking lot to pick up his girlfriend following a high school football game. The plaintiff brought this action against the School Board of Dade County alleging that the shooting was a result of inadequate security by the defendant. The defendant maintained that the crime was unforeseeable, unpreventable and did not occur on school property.

On the evening of October 21, ________, the plaintiff drove to the student parking lot of Southridge High School for the purpose of picking up his girlfriend, who was a cheerleader. A football game had been played that evening at an off-campus site and students returned to the parking lot following the game. The plaintiff argued that the defendant had previously employed an off-duty police officer to patrol the parking lot until the last students had returned from these evening football games and cleared the lot, which could be after midnight. The off-duty officer on duty on the evening of the shooting could only remain at the site until 10:30 p.m. because he was scheduled to go to another job at 11:00 p.m. The students did not return from the game until after 10:30, according to the evidence offered.

While the plaintiff waited in the student parking lot, two individuals later identified as Derrick Hanna and Creighton Silimon, approached him concerning his car stereo and a brief conversation took place. Silimon testified by deposition that he and Hanna were aware that there was no police officer in the parking lot that evening and that it was unusual for the police officer to have left so early.

The plaintiff testified that after picking up his girlfriend, he began to exit the parking lot when Silimon called to him at approximately the area of the front gate. Hanna then approached him and demanded that he get out of the car, according to the plaintiff’s testimony. The plaintiff attempted to flee and was outside of the front gate when he was shot in the neck by Hanna.

Medical evidence established that the plaintiff was rendered a C6-quadriplegic as a result of the shooting with incomplete quadriplegia to the level of his fourth cervical vertebra.

Following extensive rehabilitation, the plaintiff remained confined to a wheelchair with only limited use of his hands.

Testimony indicated that the plaintiff is permanently dependent in all activities of daily living.

The plaintiff contended that the defendant school board provided inadequate security by hiring an off-duty police officer who was known to have a scheduling conflict which required him to leave the premises at 10:30 p.m. The plaintiff argued that the defendant made no efforts to locate another police officer to be present in the parking lot after 10:30 p.m. The plaintiff’s security expert opined that the attack upon the plaintiff was foreseeable based on prior violent crimes which had occurred in and around the general area surrounding the school, which was located across the street from a HUD housing project.

The defendant contended that it owed no duty to the plaintiff as the shooting occurred outside of school properly. The defendant also argued that the crime was unforeseeable, unpreventable and that the school district was not responsible for the criminal acts of third parties. The defense stressed the plaintiff’s testimony that he did not feel threatened by Hanna or Silimon until after he left the student parking lot. The plaintiff’s girlfriend, who was in the plaintiff’s car at the time of the shooting, testified that the entire sequence of events leading to the shooting took place in the westbound lane of Southwest 192nd Street, more than 50 feet from the defendant’s property.

Similarly, an independent eyewitness, who lived across the street from the school, testified that the events took place outside of the defendant’s property.

The jury found the defendant school board 85% negligent, Hanna 10% at fault and Silimon 5% at fault. The plaintiff was awarded $________ which was reduced by the comparative fault of Silimon and Hanna to $________. The case is currently on appeal.

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