Council members for the City of Fort Myers have agreed to pay $40,000 to avoid further litigation involving the family of a 20-year-old man who was fatally shot at a Halloween-themed event downtown two years ago.
The News-Press reports the city hoped to avoid the continuation of a $5 million wrongful death lawsuit, by settling with the young man’s personal representative. The city has already spent $55,000 thus far settling various lawsuits filed against it after the unsolved shooting at the event, a horror-themed tradition called Zombicon. The city cut ties with the event coordinator soon after the shooting. Two more personal injury lawsuits are still pending in state court, as well as a third involving a dispute with insurer in federal court. Previously, the city paid two other 20-year-olds who had been shot and injured $7,500 each.
Zombicon had been one of the most popular downtown celebrations, drawing some 20,000 people to the event every year. However, at the 2015 event, shortly before midnight, an unknown person started firing into the crowd. Decedent was killed and six others were seriously injured. After nine years of the event being held downtown, it is no longer. The event organizer is also facing litigation, alleging, among other things, inadequate security.
At the time the lawsuit was filed on behalf of decedent, his maternal grandmother chastised the city, saying it was irresponsible for the city to allow the event organizer and security firm to allow so many people to come into a crowded area, consume alcohol, “waving toy guns and being in disguise” and not anticipate there would be trouble.
Although no one but the shooter (and potential accomplices) can be held criminally liable for what happened, civil liability where it involves intentional torts is different. The unidentified shooter could theoretically be held civilly liable too, but that doesn’t often happen in criminal cases because the defendant rarely has the personal means to cover a claimant’s damages. Instead, crime victims can seek compensation from third parties that owed a duty of care to prevent an unreasonable risk of danger owing to foreseeable hazards. One example of that is inadequate security or negligent security. If a city, event organizer or security firm undertakes the duty to provide security for an event, they must use reasonable care in doing so.
Here, plaintiffs are alleging there were security lapses, and specifically, the amount and quality of security were inadequate. There was no crowd control, and no one was checking weapons people were carrying to determine whether they were real or fake.
What’s more, the event took place in what was known as a high-crime area, with numerous criminal attacks perpetrated on the public in this area. There was even a police officer murdered by a gunman there several years ago. The point is there was knowledge that criminal acts were reasonably likely to be perpetrated in this area, and the city had a duty to take reasonable action to prevent personal injury and wrongful death stemming from foreseeable dangers.
City and police officials insist the downtown area is safe, but some have criticized the security at the event, saying they were neither trained nor equipped to handle a crowd of this type and size.
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Florida City Settles Zombicon Shooting Death Suit for $40K, Sept. 19, 2017, Associated Press
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