Investigators have tracked down the three people they believe are responsible for a fatal shooting that happened in a restaurant parking lot.
Officers responding to a disturbance call found a 20-year-old man in a car who had been shot several times. He received treatment at a local hospital, but he did not survive his injuries. During their investigation, officers found security camera footage that showed a suspicious SUV. This evidence eventually lead to the arrest of a 19-year-old, who was allegedly the triggerman, and his two accomplices.
According to an obituary, the victim was a recent high school graduate who enjoyed “playing sports and spending time with friends and family.”
Burden of Proof in Civil and Criminal Matters
In criminal court, prosecutors must establish guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. That’s the highest burden of proof in the law. So, unless there is overwhelming evidence, like a credible eyewitness or a corroborated confession, it’s very difficult to obtain a conviction. Furthermore, some procedural rules apply to the evidence collection process. For example, before they record a confession, police officers must administer the Miranda rights (e.g. you have the right to remain silent).
Things are a lot different in civil court. The burden of proof is only a preponderance of the evidence (more likely than not).
Assume that, in the above story, the surveillance camera recorded a partial plate number of the suspect’s SUV. That evidence would be almost useless in criminal court. There’s no proof that the vehicle was associated with the shooting, and the evidence doesn’t establish who was driving the vehicle. It only proves who owned it.
But this proof could hold up in civil court. If the vehicle was in the parking lot, it’s more likely than not that it was involved in the shooting. And, it’s more likely than not that the vehicle’s owner was driving it at a particular time.
Furthermore, the aforementioned procedural evidence collection rules only protect criminal defendants. A Lexington personal injury attorney must abide by the code of professional conduct and other applicable laws. But procedural protections, like the Miranda rights, don’t apply in civil court.
On a related note, the res ipsa loquitur doctrine often comes into play as well. This phase is Latin for “the thing speaks for itself.” Jurors may presume that negligence caused an injury if the owner had exclusive control of the property, and negligence is usually associated with the injury. Doctrines like this one reduce the amount of evidence necessary and increase the amount of compensation available.
Negligent Security in Kentucky
There are some other differences between civil and criminal court. Criminal courts punish evildoers, and civil courts compensate victims for their serious injuries.
This compensation usually includes money for economic losses, such as medical bills, and noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering. If the victim was killed, the survivors are also entitled to compensation for pecuniary losses, such as lost future financial and emotional support.
Compensation is available in a restaurant shooting claim, or similar claim, like a structural fire, if the owner was negligent.
A negligence claim usually begins with a legal duty. Restaurant owners have a duty to keep their customers and employees reasonably safe. Frequently, this duty involves fall hazards, like wet spots on floors. This duty also includes a responsibility to provide adequate security.
The specific level of responsibility usually depends on the nature of the business, as well as the property’s location. A shooting could happen at a neighborhood coffee shop, but the likelihood is very remote, to say the least. Therefore, a security camera or two might be sufficient. A busy restaurant, especially one that serves alcohol, is different. Such businesses arguably require a full-time or roving security guard.
Depending on the location, this guard could be an unarmed “courtesy patrol” or an armed guard. The need usually depends on the area’s reputation as a high crime area, if any.
Moreover, a victim must prove that the owner knew, or should have known, about the lack of security issue. Once again, the victim must establish actual or constructive knowledge (should have known) by a preponderance of the evidence.
Finally, negligent security claims often involve foreseeability issues. Evidence of foreseeability, which basically means possibility, includes prior similar incidents on that property and prior similar incidents in the neighborhood.
Occasionally, it is difficult to establish where the injury happened and who controlled the area where it happened. That’s especially true in parking lot shooting cases. If the restaurant was in a min-mall or other such area, the landlord, as opposed to the restaurant, is usually responsible for security in common areas, like parking lots. In other cases, the shooting happens in a public area and the victim is able to make it to a parking lot.
Once again, the low burden of proof could come into play. Victims need not “prove” anything in civil court. Instead, they must only convince jurors that a certain fact is more likely than not.
On a related note, shootings often have complex causes. For example, an argument might start in a bar and end violently in a common area parking lot. Or, the people involved could be upset over something unrelated to the property. These questions usually go back to the foreseeability issue which we discussed above.
Injury victims are usually entitled to substantial compensation. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury lawyer in Lexington, contact the Goode Law Office, PLLC. After-hours, virtual, and hospital visits are available. #goodelawyers