Five injured survivors of a mass shooting at the Gilroy Garlic Festival in July have filed a lawsuit against the event’s organizers, claiming negligent security measures allowed the teen gunman to access the festival undetected.

Three people were killed and 12 others were injured when a 17-year-old shooter cut through a “flimsy” chain-link fence surrounding the Northern California venue and opened fire. The five plaintiffs suffered multiple life-threatening gunshot wounds in the July 28 shooting, the lawsuit alleges.

The complaint, filed in Santa Clara County Superior Court, alleges the mass shooting could have been prevented had the Gilroy Garlic Festival Association, various security companies, and other defendants adequately secured and monitored the event’s perimeter and adequately staffed the event with properly trained security personnel.

The lawsuit asserts that the defendants at least should have considered that an active shooter was a “foreseeable” risk and conducted a threat assessment and/or security audit of the festival’s venue. Additionally, the defendants should have known that the chain-link fence surrounding the event was “grossly deficient” in protecting festival-goers because “people in Gilroy know you can hop the fence and get in for free,” a lawyer for the victims explained in a press announcement.

“Obviously security was woefully deficient. Festival organizers owed a duty to protect the community members attending their event from the foreseeable and dangerous risk of shooters,” the lawyer said. “No one should undertake to organize and promote a large public event without taking steps to make their attendees safe. It is simply unfathomable that they would not have better planned this event.”

The Gilroy Garlic Festival was first held in 1979. Since then, the festival’s popularity has grown drastically. Attendance at the last festival in July was about 85,000.

The annual Gilroy Garlic Festival is held in the city-owned Christmas Hill Park. The Festival Association has contracted with the city to lease the park since 1985. However, lawyers for the plaintiffs say that the contract is “antiquated,” having gone unchanged since then.

According to the plaintiffs’ lawyers, the contract does not account for the risks associated with “hosting a large public event in modern times” and fails to observe the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s “Protective Measures Guide for the U.S. Outdoor Venues Industry,” which the agency has prescribed for eight years.

Those guidelines say large event organizers must plan for worst-case scenarios, including possible terrorist attacks. The FBI is investigating the Gilroy Garlic Festival shooting as an act of domestic terrorism.

Worsening matters, the lack of emergency planning led to chaos after the shooter was killed, the lawsuit asserts. One plaintiff who suffered gunshot wounds says others who came to her aid had to clean her injuries with water and bleach from a utensil wash station due to lack of clean water. She and other victims were hauled to the hospital in civilian passenger vehicles, an ordeal that took more than an hour.

Beasley Allen lawyers handle cases involving issues of premises liability and negligent security. Premises Liability is the responsibility a land or property owner has for accidents, injury or other incidents that occur on his real property. Negligent security cases normally take the form of shootings, fights, stabbings, or other physical violence (including sexual assault) where severe injury or death occurs due to the establishment owner’s failure to take reasonable safety measures. When this occurs, the establishment owner, as well as those contractors charged with security, may be held responsible for the injuries suffered by individuals or groups of individuals on the premises. For more information about these types of cases, contact Parker Miller, a lawyer in our Atlanta office.

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