Do Premises Liability Laws Apply to Fatal Shooting in South Florida Parking Lot?

Two assailants will face multiple criminal charges after a robbery and assault led to the shooting death of a 23-year-old man in South Florida. The Miami Herald provided some details in an October 19, 2020 article, reporting that surveillance cameras at a Walgreens captured the details of the incident. The video footage shows that the victim and a teenaged companion were inside the store when a motorist entered the parking lot and strategically positioned his vehicle with a view to the victim’s car. As the pair inside the store exited and walked to their own vehicle, two assailants emerged from their car and assaulted the victim and teenager. One suspect shot the victim, and both perpetrators fled the scene. 

Law enforcement continues to investigate and will pursue criminal charges against the suspects, but the victim’s surviving family members may also have legal remedies under Florida law. A Miami personal injury attorney can explain how the concepts of premises liability and wrongful death apply in such a case, but an overview may also be helpful.

Comparing Florida Premises Liability and Wrongful Death Laws

The recent shooting incident encompasses two overlapping concepts under Florida personal injury laws:

  • Premises liability, which imposes a legal duty upon property owners to keep their spaces safe; and,
  • Wrongful death, a specific type of personal injury cases in which certain survivors can recover compensation after a loved one dies in an accident.

Based upon the facts of the Miami Herald article, the victim’s spouse, children, parents, and other relatives may have a wrongful death case based upon premises liability. These claimants would need to prove that the property owner – Walgreens – failed to keep the premises safe, and the victim died because of the breach of duty. If successful, they may be able to recover for:

  • Lost wages, financial support, and other contributions the decedent would have provided;
  • Funeral and burial costs; and,
  • Loss of consortium, companionship, love, guidance, education, and related losses.

Extent of Property Owner Duties

Even when you understand the basics behind premises liability and wrongful death, you may be wondering how a property owner could be liable:

  • For an attack that occurred outside the store, in the parking lot; and,
  • For a criminal act by a third party, i.e., NOT an employee or other individual affiliated with Walgreens.

The explanation is that a property owner is responsible for all spaces under its control, including a parking lot. Part of this duty involves protecting against criminal attacks, typically through such measures as hiring a security guard, ensuring adequate lighting, and installing security cameras. In failing to take action, the property owner enables – and may even encourage – criminal activity through inadequate security.

Set up a No-Cost Case Evaluation with Our Miami Premises Liability Attorneys

If you lost a loved one in a criminal attack on property that could have been prevented, please contact Gerson & Schwartz, PA to speak to a member of our team. We can schedule a free consultation to discuss your circumstances at our offices in Miami, Fort Lauderdale, or West Palm Beach, FL.

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