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Georgia Verdicts

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Suit: City and club owners to blame for shooting death

Amount:

$15,200,000

Type:

Verdict-Plaintiff

State:

Georgia

Venue:

Dougherty County

Court:

Dougherty County, Superior Court

Injury Type(s):

brain-subdural hematoma; other-death; other-gunshot wound

Case Type:

Government - Municipalities; Wrongful Death - Survival Damages; Intentional Torts - Public Nuisance; Premises Liability - Inadequate or Negligent Security

Case Name:

Cheryl Stanford and Wilfred Foster, as Parents and Co-Administrators of the Estate of LeShelton Kernard Stanford v. City of Albany, Molly Loving and Daniel Loving, No. 11-CV2740-3

Date:

October 12, 2016

Parties

Plaintiff(s):

Wilfred Foster (Male), 

Cheryl Stanford (Female), 

Estate of LaShelton Kernard Stanford (Male, 20 Years)

Plaintiff Attorney(s):

Virgil L. Adams; Adams, Jordan & Herrington, P.C.; Albany, GA, for Wilfred Foster, Cheryl Stanford, Estate of LaShelton Kernard Stanford

Defendant(s):

Molly Loving, 

Daniel Loving, 

City of Albany

Defense Attorney(s):

None reported; for Molly Loving, Daniel Loving ■ Mark L. Pickett; Gardner, Willis, Sweat, Plaire & Pickett, LLP; Albany, GA, for City of Albany

Facts:

On Feb. 14, 2010, plaintiff's decedent LaShelton Kernard Stanford, 20, was a patron at the Brick House Productions recording studio in Albany. Stanford was visiting the business, which acted as an informal club, with several family members. At this time, Stanford was approached by another patron on the studio's dance floor and was threatened. Stanford was subsequently assaulted by a large mob of assailants. He was escorted out of the premises by security personnel. While standing outside the club, Stanford was once again attacked by a group of approximately 15 assailants. Stanford was then shot six times and was pronounced dead at the scene. Stamford's estate sued the city of Albany, alleging liability under the public nuisance theory. Molly Loving and Daniel Loving, the owners of Brick House Productions, were named as defendants under the nuisance theory and inadequate security. These defendants did not appear at trial and were found in default. Although Stanford's attackers were not named as defendants in the civil trial, individuals including Anthony Hawkins, Lawrence Stephens, Antonio Seay, Shacoby Seay, Shuntavious Seay, Cavoris Barney and Jacory Butts, were named as non-parties. The individual who shot Stanford, Shenard Smith, was also a non-party in the suit. The estate alleged that the city was aware that the studio was a public nuisance, but failed to take action against it. The estate noted that the production studio had been previously cited for alcohol and narcotics violations, as well as instances of assault and weapons possession. The business license for Brick House Productions was revoked several weeks after Stanford's death. The city of Albany denied liability, arguing that the District Attorneys office had been in the process of launching an undercover investigation against the studio owners. The city alleged that Stanford had been comparatively negligent in instigating the altercation on the dance floor. The security guards present at the studio on the date of loss testified at trial. One testified that Stanford threw the first punch, knocking another patron unconscious.

Injury:

Stanford's parents, Cheryl Stanford and Wilfred Foster, claimed damages for their son's wrongful death. They also sought damages for their son's conscious pain and suffering, as well as $4,600 in funeral expenses. In testimony as a fact witness, the Dougherty County medical examiner discussed the decedent's autopsy. The medical examiner explained that Stanford sustained a subdural hematoma prior to his death. The medical examiner testified that Stanford's death was from a fatal gunshot wound to his lung and that he suffered for a period of approximately five minutes before his death. Damages were not actively in dispute.

Result:

The jury found in favor of Stanford and awarded a total of $15.2 million to the estate. The jury apportioned 70-percent liability to the city of Albany, 5-percent liability each to Daniel Loving and Molly Loving, 13-percent liability to non-party Shenard Smith, and 1-percent liability (7-percent total) to the remaining non-parties. The jury's award was reduced by 30-percent to $10.64 million to reflect the portion for which the city was liable.

Estate of LaShelton Kernard Stanford: $5,200,000 Wrongful Death: wrongful death damages; $10,000,000 Wrongful Death: pain and suffering/funeral expenses

Actual Award:

$10,640,000

Trial Information:

Judge:

Willie E. Lockette

Trial Length:

8  days

Trial Deliberations:

5  hours

Jury Vote:

unanimous

Editor's Comment:

This report is based on information that was provided by plaintiff's counsel. Defense counsel did not respond to the reporter's phone calls.