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Georgia Verdicts

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Inadequate security was cause of man's death: plaintiffs

Amount:

$20,000,000

Type:

Verdict-Plaintiff

State:

Georgia

Venue:

Clayton County

Court:

Clayton County, State Court

Injury Type(s):

other-death; other-gunshot wound

Case Type:

Wrongful Death; Premises Liability - Inadequate or Negligent Security

Case Name:

Roger Kirschenbaum, as Administrator of the Estate of Florencio Gomez-Mendez, Deceased, Pascuala Perez-Hernandez, Individually and as Next Friend and Guardian of Maria Magdalena Gomez-Perez, Ermenegildo Gomez-Perez and Antonio Gomez-Perez, Minors v. JAMCO Properties, Inc. and Clayton Carriage Apartments, LLC, No. 2105CV00848E

Date:

September 9, 2016

Parties

Plaintiff(s):

Antonio Gomez-Perez (Male), 

Ermenegildo Gomez-Perez , 

Pascuala Perez-Hernandez (Female), 

Maria Magdalena Gomez-Perez (Female), 

Estate of Florencio Gomez-Mendez (Male, 31 Years)

Plaintiff Attorney(s):

Jeff Shiver; Shiver Hamilton; Atlanta, GA, for Antonio Gomez-Perez, Ermenegildo Gomez-Perez, Pascuala Perez-Hernandez, Maria Magdalena Gomez-Perez, Estate of Florencio Gomez-Mendez ■ Darren Summerville; The Summerville Firm, LLC; Atlanta, GA, for Antonio Gomez-Perez, Ermenegildo Gomez-Perez, Pascuala Perez-Hernandez, Maria Magdalena Gomez-Perez, Estate of Florencio Gomez-Mendez

Defendant(s):

JAMCO Properties Inc., 

Clayton Carriage Apartments LLC

Defense Attorney(s):

Earl W. (Billy) Gunn; Weinberg, Wheeler, Hudgins, Gunn & Dial, LLC; Atlanta, GA, for JAMCO Properties Inc., Clayton Carriage Apartments LLC ■ David I. Matthews; Weinberg, Wheeler, Hudgins, Gunn & Dial, LLC; Atlanta, GA, for JAMCO Properties Inc., Clayton Carriage Apartments LLC

Facts:

On Jan. 24, 2015, plaintiffs' decedent Florencio Gomez-Mendez, 31, was shot repeatedly by unknown assailants while within the common area of the Bradford Ridge Apartments housing complex in Forest Park. Gomez-Mendez was declared dead at the scene. Gomez-Mendez's estate sued Bradford Ridge Apartments owner JAMCO Properties, Inc. and subsidiary property management entity Clayton Carriage Apartments, LLC, alleging inadequate security enabled the decedent's wrongful death. The estate alleged that the defendants did not provide enough security on the premises given the history of violent crime at the apartment complex and at a neighboring building. The estate argued that the "courtesy officers" (police officers who provide twice daily patrols of the property in exchange for free or reduced rent) were not sufficient to prevent violent crime and that the complex required an upgraded security presence. The defendants denied liability, arguing that they were not responsible for the actions of Gomez-Mendez's assailants. They maintained that security had been adequate at the apartment complex. During cross-examination at trial, JAMCO's vice president in charge of security was questioned with regard to approximately 80 incidents of violent crime that occurred at or near the apartment complex over a period of four years. The vice president reportedly testified that the amount of crime in the area was "overwhelming."

Injury:

Gomez-Mendez suffered multiple gunshot wounds, including a fatal gunshot wound to the chest. He attempted to return to his home, but was found several feet from the site of the attack. Gomez-Mendez's wife and minor children sought wrongful death damages on behalf of the decedent. Counsel for Gomez-Mendez's estate did not rely on expert testimony. The defendants did not offer specific arguments as to damages.

Result:

The jury apportioned 50-percent liability to the defendants and 50-percent liability to the unknown assailants. Gomez-Mendez's family was awarded $18 million in wrongful death damages, as well as $2 million in damages for conscious pain and suffering. Due to the apportionment of liability, the defendants were only responsible for $10 million.

Actual Award:

$10,000,000

Trial Information:

Judge:

Tammi Hayward

Trial Length:

8  days

Trial Deliberations:

2  hours

Jury Vote:

unanimous

Jury Composition:

12 female

Post Trial:

Defense counsel's motions for a new trial and reimbursement of fees related to a rejected offer of judgment were pending at the time of publication.

Editor's Comment:

This report is based on information that was provided by plaintiffs' counsel. Defense counsel declined to contribute to the report.