$20,000,000 Jury Verdict- Negligent Security in Atlanta

Florencio Gomez Mendez left his wife and three children in Chiapas, Mexico, to come to Atlanta in search of economic opportunity and a better life for them all. He found work and lived in Bradford Ridge Apartments, a Clayton County, Georgia apartment complex. It was an immigrant community, largely pedestrian since many workers did not have their own vehicles. Residents would often walk to the grocery or convenience stores to get food and the other necessary items. One night Florencio was walking home from the store and was approached by three men he did not know. They shot him and left him to die. He managed to crawl about 50 yards in search of help. He was found dead on the grounds of the apartment complex.

The Atlanta wrongful death attorneys at Shiver Hamilton have a proven track record of winning judgments for their clients who were injured or lost their life due to insufficient security measures. When apartment property owners in Atlanta do not take the minimum steps to ensure their customers and tenants are safe, the injured or victimized party may be entitled to compensation.

Inadequate Security in Wrongful Death Cases

Shiver Hamilton’s mission is to seek justice for people like Florencio who have suffered a wrongful death due to the negligence of others, including in inadequate security cases such as this one. To prove that the property owner allowed a negligent security situation to exist, it is necessary to prove that he or she had prior knowledge of the hazardous conditions and did not take reasonable steps to protect customers and tenants from danger. 

Bradford Ridge Apartments proprietors had a history of carelessness. Shiver Hamilton previously represented the family of a 13-year-old boy who was shot and killed 18 months prior in the same apartment complex. Shiver Hamilton’s wrongful death attorneys in Atlanta had obtained a favorable settlement for his family in that case. They were familiar with the ownership and management of the complex. They knew that numerous crimes had been committed at the apartment complex.

Most importantly, their investigation revealed that the apartment complex implemented no meaningful security measures to protect residents from predators in the subsequent period. The apartment complex did not install surveillance cameras or hire off-duty police officers to ensure a safe environment for residents. Shiver Hamilton filed a civil wrongful death lawsuit alleging unsafe premises due to negligent security. They requested $20 million in damages, $18 million to compensate Florencio’s family for the loss of his life and $2 million for Florencio’s pain and suffering.

Holding Negligent Property Owners Accountable for Unsafe Premises

The men who killed Florencio were never apprehended by the police. The insurance company representing Bradford Ridge Apartments, the defendants in the case, denied all responsibility for Florencio’s death. They tried to settle the case before trial but offered Florencio’s family only $1 million in compensation. Shiver Hamilton has extensive experience in wrongful death cases resulting from negligent security and a solid record of achieving fair settlements for their clients. They were confident they could demonstrate to a jury that Florencio’s murder could have been prevented if adequate security measures had been in place at Bradford Ridge, and that such a low offer was not acceptable. Shiver Hamilton was joined by Darren Summerville and Mecca Anderson of The Summerville Firm.

The trial required a great deal of investigative work by Shiver Hamilton. Witnesses, fearing retribution, are often reluctant to testify in wrongful death cases against negligent property owners. Shiver Hamilton hired private investigators and convinced witnesses to come forward for the good of the community and the Mendez family. Florencio’s widow, Pascuala, was a Tzotzil Indian. She spoke no English, or much Spanish for that matter, and had never traveled outside of the Chiapas region of Mexico. She went to the regional capital of Tuxtla to be deposed for trial preparation and was eventually brought to Atlanta to testify at the trial against the negligent property owners. She did so courageously, even under fierce cross-examination by skilled defense attorneys.

Atlanta Negligent Security Attorneys Achieve Results for Families of Victims

The trial lasted two weeks. On September 9, 2016, a Clayton County jury returned a $20 million verdict for the widow and children of Florencio Gomez Mendez. The jury apportioned 50 percent of the fault to the defendants and 50 percent to the criminals for a total verdict of $10 million against the defendants. Because the insurance company had denied a prior settlement offer and the verdict was greater than 125 percent of the plaintiffs’ prior offer, the defendants were also ordered to pay plaintiffs’ attorneys fees.

With the help of witnesses and private investigators, Shiver Hamilton successfully demonstrated to the jury that the poor working people of Bradford Ridge Apartments and other Atlanta communities have a right to expect better treatment. People should feel safe in their homes and in their communities. Properties owners have responsibilities to the residents they are contractually obligated to serve, including maintaining safe premises. When they are negligent and fail in these responsibilities, and their premises are unsafe, they may be held liable for any resulting damages. Many witnesses testified to the dangerous environment and the harassment they experienced by the criminal element on the property. There was a clear record of criminality on the premises, no meaningful attempts to make the premises safe for residents, and a concerted effort to avoid financial responsibility. The jury verdict returned was the full amount that Shiver Hamilton had requested.

Shiver Hamilton dedicates any necessary resources such as private investigators and expert opinions to make sure their clients receive the justice they deserve. They know their clients are worried about far more than the legal outcome. They stand by their clients through their grief and guide them through the complex legal process.

The Atlanta wrongful death lawyers of Shiver Hamilton are always ready to go to trial if necessary to receive full justice and compensation for the families of wrongful death victims. Preparing the case for trial is necessary to help families receive the full amount of compensation they are entitled to. Defendants know that Shiver Hamilton’s clients have adept Atlanta trial lawyers by their side who will dedicate whatever resources are necessary to help their clients receive the settlement they need and deserve.