As consumers were gearing up for the biggest spending season of the year starting on Black Friday last week, at least four brick and mortar retail establishments experienced gun-related incidents. Incidents occurred in Alabama, Mississippi, New Jersey and Tennessee. The incidents have rekindled consumers’ fears of exposure to criminal attacks in public venues with lax security.
By law, establishment owners are required to ensure that the premises are reasonably safe and secure from anticipated dangers. Yet, foreseeable criminal attacks, such as shootings, fights, stabbings and other forms of physical violence – including sexual assault – are seemingly on the rise. Through lawsuits alleging negligent security among other claims, victims are sending a message that they will seek accountability from establishment owners, vendors, event sponsors and others that fail to protect their patrons.
Numerous lawsuits have been filed across the country following mass acts of violence.
- Jacksonville, Florida – at least 12 lawsuits have been filed against Electronic Arts Inc.(EA), which hosted the “Madden NFL 19” video gaming tournament in August at The Jacksonville Landing, which is also named in the lawsuits, along with other tournament sponsors including Chicago Pizza and a private firm that provides security services at the mall. The lawsuits allege EA failed to protect participants from a fellow competitor, 24-year-old David Katz, with known mental health issues and who open fired after losing in a preliminary round. Katz injured 10 people and killed two with his rampage of gunfire.
- Little Rock, Arkansas – 19 survivors of a shooting at the Power Ultra Lounge in July 2017 have filed suit against the bar’s owner. During a concert at the nightclub, 25 people were shot and three others were injured as they tried to escape the gunfire. Plaintiffs say the owners and operators of the bar should have been aware of the potential violence accompanying the event. Police had responded to at least nine calls involving criminal attacks at the nightclub in the two years preceding the event.
- Atlanta, Georgia – Beasley Allen filed a lawsuit on behalf of the family of 21-year-old Ewell Ynoa, who was shot and killed the night of Nov. 12, 2017, while attending a concert at the Masquerade, a night club and live music venue located in the Underground Atlanta development. Mr. Ynoa was attending a concert by music entertainer Stephen Goss, who performs as “Cousin Stizz.” A deranged individual entered the Masquerade venue carrying a firearm. The gunman fired numerous shots into the crowd, striking Mr. Ynoa and three others. Mr. Ynoa died as a result of catastrophic injuries sustained in the shooting. In addition to Mr. Ynoa, one other man was killed and two more were injured.
- Las Vegas, Nevada – Following a mass shooting during a concert in October 2017 at Mandalay Bay Hotel, many survivors and families of those killed filed lawsuits against the hotel and its parent company, MGM Resorts, and reportedly against Live Nation, the concert promoter. A lone gunman took at aim at thousands of participants during The Route 91 festival, killing 58 and injuring more than 500 others. It currently holds the title of being the worst mass shooting in U.S. history. MGM Resorts is attempting to negotiate a settlement with plaintiffs’ attorneys short of going to court. Plaintiffs say that MGM did not have adequate security policies, failed to properly train staff and failed to surveil the premises. They also allege that by granting the gunman VIP status as a high-stakes gambler, which gained him access to a service elevator, the hotel allowed him to stockpile weapons and ammunition days before his attack – despite its no weapons policy. The impact of the mass shooting event has also been felt by Nevada’s tourism industry. Visitor volume has been down in seven of the last 10 months.
This holiday season, consumers should not be the only ones concerned about mass acts of violence in public places. Establishment owners should also have a heightened sense of awareness because those that fail to protect their patrons will be held accountable.