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Lack of Security at Centre of Problems
by Ron Davis
The family of a murdered youth will collect $176,500 from the owners of the Louisiana shopping center where the crime occurred.
The shopping center, located in Alexandria, is The Centre, and the youth's death resulted from gunshot wounds he suffered during an altercation in the center's parking lot.
Details of the shooting show that just prior to the incident, the youth had gone with friends to a bar located at the shopping center. Outside the bar, words were exchanged with another group of youths, and a fight erupted. Apparently, a young woman was struck during the melee, and her escort retrieved a handgun from his car. He first fired a warning shot, according to witnesses, then fired directly at a member of the opposing group of youths.
The victim of the shooting later died from the head wound he received. And his parents sued the owners of the shopping center, claiming that they failed to provide adequate security for their son.
In response, the shopping center's owners argued that they did not breach any duty owed to the murdered youth and pointed out that prior to that shooting, no weapons incidents had ever occurred on the shopping center premises.
But Alexandria police records showed that in the four years before the shooting, officers had responded to 192 calls related to "incidents" in and around the bar located at the shopping center. And although the center employed local deputies on certain occasions to help with security, none were on duty at the time of the youth's murder. Moreover, The Centre lacked a comprehensive plan for providing security at the facility.
A jury eventually decided that the shopping center's owners were liable for the death of the youth and awarded his parents $176,500. The shopping center's owners appealed, contending that they were not at fault.
A Louisiana appellate court, in upholding the jury verdict, explained, "By maintaining control over the parking lots and common areas, The Centre's owners retained their general duty of care and assumed a contractual duty to use reasonable care in protecting the patrons of The Centre. However, not only did the owners fail to determine what security might be needed, they also failed to provide security for The Centre's patrons. In failing to do so, they created the risk that something such as this youth's death might result from the lack of security."
(Patrick vs. Employers Mut. Cas. Co., 745 So.2d 641 [La.App. 3 Cir. 1999])
Decision: December 1999
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