Retired Major League Baseball slugger David Ortiz was recently shot at the Dial Bar and Lounge, a nightclub in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. Since we specialize in negligent security cases, this story got us thinking: Would Ortiz have a case against Dial Bar and Lounge if the shooting had happened in Georgia? The answer depends on several factors.
Was Ortiz an invitee?
Ortiz was sitting at a table with a local TV reporter and some friends when he was shot in the back. It appears from the grainy surveillance video that Ortiz may have been enjoying a drink at the time. Ortiz was a customer when he was at Dial. That would make him an “invitee” in Georgia. Invitees are people who are expressly or impliedly invited to a property by the property’s owner and/or manager. Because Ortiz was an invitee, Dial would have a duty to exercise reasonable care to keep the premises safe for him.
Was the shooting foreseeable?
Dial would only have a duty to protect Ortiz from foreseeable criminal acts. Generally, criminal acts are only considered foreseeable when “substantially similar” crimes have taken place at the property before. This is because those similar crimes should put the property owner and manager on notice that they need to act to prevent future crimes. If we were working on this case, we would request crime statistics, review police reports, interview former Dial employees, perform further investigation to find out if similar crimes have taken place at Dial. Dial’s attorneys would probably argue that the only crimes that would put Dial on notice of the possibility of this shooting would be other shootings at the club. However, Georgia case law says that substantially similar incidents don’t have to be identical to put property owners/managers on notice. Georgia case law says that stabbings could put them on notice, and so could beatings. In fact, if Dial is located in a rough area with a lot of criminal activity, Georgia law says that could put Dial on notice, even if Dial itself doesn’t have a history of criminal activity.
Was Ortiz specifically targeted?
This would likely be a tough defense for Ortiz to overcome. Witnesses say they saw two men ride up to Dial’s outdoor seating area on a motorcycle before one man got off and aimed his gun at Ortiz’s back. Georgia law recognizes that it is very difficult for property owners/managers to stop criminals who are motivated to attack a certain person. Even reasonable measures to protect someone are often ineffective against those types of attacks.
Ortiz is a celebrity, and many people are probably jealous of him; criminals may even seek the notoriety of shooting a celebrity. The gunman walked right up to Ortiz and shot him from close range. These would likely be the worst facts for his case against Dial. Reasonable security measures such as security guards probably would not have stopped the shooter from making his way to Ortiz and shooting him. A jury could very well agree and decide Ortiz’s injuries are not the result of the property owner/manager’s negligence.
How much blame is on the shooter?
In Georgia, defendants are allowed to ask the jury to attach blame for an attack to someone other than themselves. Property owners/managers always ask juries to find that no one is to blame other than the shooter. Juries are allowed to blame the shooter completely, or to “apportion” a percentage of the blame to them, which would reduce the amount Ortiz could recover from Dial by the percentage.
Police have arrested Eddy Vladimir Féliz García in connection with Ortiz’s shooting, while a second suspect has not been caught. Dial’s attorneys would argue García and the second suspect were responsible for the attack, not Dial. This is a possibility in any negligent security case, but his verdict amount is more likely to be reduced because the jury could put a name and a face with the person who shot Ortiz. We find that juries are less likely to apportion blame to an attacker when they don’t know who they are.
Negligent security cases are a specialty for the lawyers at Rafi Law Firm. If you’ve been injured due to negligent security at a property, click here or call us at 404-800-9933 for a free consultation.