Defendants Found 1% Liable in Premises Liability/Negligent Security Case
WWHGD Partners Mark Johnson, Jad Dial and Gary Toman received an unprecedented premises liability/negligent security verdict for their clients, the owners and manager of the Bradford Gwinnett Townhomes and Apartments in Norcross, Georgia. In that regard, on April 13, 2014, Kevin Pierre, a resident of the Bradford Gwinnett Townhomes in Norcross, Georgia, was shot and killed following a fight involving four non-parties. Pierre was not a direct party to the fight and is believed to have been accidentally shot by a bullet intended for one of the persons involved in the fight. Pierre lived for up to 5 minutes after being shot before eventually succumbing to his injuries. Plaintiffs, Pierre’s parents and sister, the administrator of his Estate, alleged that in the years prior to the shooting, there was a rampant crime problem at the Bradford Gwinnett Townhomes and Apartments and that the shooting was foreseeable. They further alleged that the defendants negligently failed to provide adequate security at the properties to protect tenants and their guests from criminal activity. They further alleged the defendants acted in bad faith and were liable for punitive damages and expenses of litigation. During a 10 day trial, the defense focused on the facts of the shooting rather than the properties’ prior crime issues and security patrols. During closing arguments, plaintiffs requested $30 million for the value of Pierre’s life and an unspecified amount for his pain and suffering. On the third day of deliberations, the jury awarded $3.3 million for the value of Pierre’s life and $700,00 for pain and suffering. However, with respect to liability, only 1% of the fault was apportioned to the defendants. 75% fault was apportioned to the assailant who shot Pierre while the remaining 24% was apportioned to the three other individuals involved in the fight immediately preceding the shooting. Accordingly, WWHGD’s client is only liable for $40,000.
Upon information and belief, this verdict represents the first of its kind in similar Georgia cases. Since Georgia’s apportionment statute was enacted in 2005, non-parties (including criminal assailants) in premises liability/negligent security cases have been apportioned relatively low percentages of fault, and sometimes have been apportioned 0% fault. The apportionment of fault to the non-parties in this case is believed to be the largest in Georgia since the enactment of the apportionment statute.