Authorities believe that a shooting victim who was found at an apartment complex was shot at a Louisville Waffle House.
Officers responding to a report of shots fired found a crime scene but no victim or perpetrator. Investigators located the victim at an apartment complex about four miles away. They transported him to a local hospital, but he did not survive.
Police have no leads as to the shooter’s identity.
Duty of Care
Individuals are criminally responsible for shootings, assaults, and other violent acts, at least in most cases. Criminal penalties, including fines, punish these individuals.
Many people assume that monetary damages in a civil case are a lot like monetary fines in a criminal case. However, the purpose is different. Civil damages don’t punish responsible parties, at least in most cases. Instead, these damages compensate victims. This needed compensation is only available through civil courts.
Additionally, monetary damages focus on responsibility. If Ms. Smith asks little Johnny to water her plants while she’s away and Johnny doesn’t do it, he must pay to replace Ms. Smith’s dead plants. By the same token, if landowners irresponsibly allow guests to get hurt, they must pay for what happened.
Not to get too technical, but the relationship between Johnny and Ms. Smith was contractual. The relationship between property owner and violent crime victim varies, usually depending on the facts, as follows:
- Invitee: Most visitors are invitees in Kentucky. These individuals have permission to be on the property. Furthermore, their presence benefits owners, either economically or noneconomically. Usually, owners have a duty of reasonable care to prevent injuries in such situations.
- Licensee: People like children who cut across parking lots on their way to school are licensees. These individuals have indirect permission to be on the land, but there is no benefit to the owner. So, owners only have a duty to warn about latent (hidden) security defects, like broken cameras.
- Trespasser: No permission and no benefit means no duty, at least in most cases. A few exceptions to this rule give some trespassers some legal rights in some situations.
Legal duty is basically the foundation of a negligence claim. But establishing a duty is only the first step toward maximum compensation.
Knowledge of Defect
Additionally, a Lexington personal injury attorney must prove the owner knew, or should have known, about the defect which caused injury.
Note that there’s a difference between penetrating or ignoring security measures and a lack of security. Landowners are only legally responsible for assault and other injuries if a security defect contributed to the incident. Negligent security examples usually include defective equipment or a lack of security. If Bruce Wayne kept his mother’s pearls in a cigar box, that would probably be inadequate security. But keeping them in a locked safe is probably a sufficient precaution.
Direct evidence of actual knowledge includes security evaluations and open repair invoices. Circumstantial evidence of constructive knowledge (should have known) usually hinges on the time-notice rule. The longer a hazard existed, the more likely it is that the owner should have known about it and addressed it.
Evidence in Negligent Security Claims
The standard of proof in these matters is usually a preponderance of the evidence (more likely than not). That’s much lower than the standard of proof in the aforementioned criminal matters (beyond any reasonable doubt).
Usually, victim/plaintiffs must prove knowledge as well as negligence. For example, in the above Waffle House shooting, authorities found the victim at another location. So, if this case went to civil court, the victim’s survivors must prove the incident occurred at the restaurant. Such evidence could include physical evidence at the scene, such as shell casings and blood, as well as eyewitness accounts of a disturbance.
Since the burden of proof is so low in civil court, a little evidence goes a long way in these situations.
Additionally, victim/plaintiffs must prove that negligence caused the injury. That probably means proving the Waffle House had inadequate security. Or, if the incident was a crime of opportunity, like a robbery, a security defect is often key. Evildoers gain confidence when they know, or think, no one is looking.
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. Attorneys can connect victims with doctors, even if they have no insurance or money. #goodelawyers