On Monday, November 27, 2023, a fatal shooting occurred at the Extended Stay America hotel in Tamarac, Florida, and a three-year-old girl, identified as De'yonnie Cleveland, tragically lost her life. Soon thereafter, an investigation ensued, but the details surrounding the incident remain unclear.
After the shooting, two individuals were temporarily detained for questioning but have since been released, and authorities have not yet disclosed additional information regarding the events that led to the young girl’s death. However, emergency 911 calls that were made in the wake of the shooting have been released.
Shooting Statistics in Florida
According to everytownresearch.org, 2,660 people die from shootings in Florida in an average year, which renders a death rate of about 12.2 deaths per 100,000 people. This puts Florida at number 27 among states with the highest rate of gun deaths in the US. Of the gun deaths every year, roughly 63% of these deaths are suicides, while 35% are homicides.
There are 67 counties in Florida, and Duval, Miami-Dade, and Hillsborough counties have gun death rates of 19.5, 10.7, and 11.0 respectively. Duval county is home to Jacksonville; Miami-Dade is obviously home to Miami, and Hillsborough is home to Tampa. Thus, these counties have some of the higher numbers of gun-related deaths in Florida.
Pursuing a Wrongful Death Claim in Florida After a Loved One is Shot at a Hotel
Although it's obvious that a criminal attack could lead to criminal charges against the person responsible, many people don't know that they may also have a civil cause of action against the business premises where the attack occurred. This is where negligent security attorneys step in to help family members who have lost a loved one as a result of a shooting at a hotel or motel—a shooting that could have been prevented through the exercise of due caution and by implementing reasonable security measures.
Understanding Wrongful Death Claims
A wrongful death claim arises when a person's death results from the wrongful act, negligence, or otherwise carelessness of another person or business. In the context of negligent security, wrongful death may occur where a business refuses to implement reasonable security measures to protect guests or otherwise ignores the potential for violent criminal attacks on the property.
Establishing the Basis for a Claim
To establish a wrongful death claim, the claimant must demonstrate that the hotel or motel owed a duty to guests and visitors to ensure reasonable safety measures or to implement reasonable security measures to prevent foreseeable violent crime. The claimant must also demonstrate that the hotel or motel breached this duty and that the breach of duty led directly to the fatal shooting of the decedent.
Who Can File the Claim?
Under Florida law, the personal representative of the deceased's estate must file the wrongful death claim. This representative acts on behalf of the deceased's survivors, which can include the decedents, spouse, or children, as well as any relatives who are dependent upon the decedent for financial support. If the decedent left behind no living spouse or children, then the decedents parents or siblings or other heirs under Florida law may be able to benefit from a wrongful death lawsuit.
Collecting evidence is a vital step in any personal injury or wrongful death case based upon negligent security. It's vital to collect evidence promptly, as evidence tends to disappear over time. Particularly vital evidence may include things like police reports, security footage, witness statements, as well as any other documentation that can support the claim that the hotel failed to provide adequate security measures.
In a Florida wrongful death claim, you can seek damages for the loss of support and services, loss of companionship and protection, mental pain and suffering, medical and funeral expenses, and loss of the deceased’s earnings.
Statute of Limitations
Act quickly, as Florida has a statute of limitations for wrongful death claims. Typically, you must file a claim within two years of the date of death.
Seek Legal Assistance
Navigating a wrongful death claim and effectively countering the insurance companies’ efforts to minimize or deny claims often requires legal expertise. An experienced negligent security attorney can guide you through the complex process, help you gather the necessary evidence, and fight on your behalf to secure the compensation that you deserve.
What Can You Expect in a Negligent Security Case?
Negligent security cases are fraught with pitfalls for claimants. We’ve seen it all, and we know how the defense teams and insurance companies approach these cases. One of their most common arguments, at least from our experience, is to blame the victim.
These incidents often happen during late-night hours, and the circumstances often leave open at least the possibility that the victim was engaged in some sort of behavior that contributed to the incident. Thus, so the defense’s argument often goes, the victim brought the shooting on himself or herself.
However, the truth is often the opposite. Upon investigation, we often discover that the business premises where the victim was shot had a long history of crime, which can be shown in a number of ways, including past 911 calls or police calls. These businesses often attract crime by ignoring it and allowing it to occur on the property. It’s the same as if the business put meat all over the property and attracted wild animals and then refused to accept blame when a wild animal attacks someone.
The bottom line is that our society doesn’t want to reward businesses for turning a blind eye to crime or otherwise allowing crime to flourish. When you provide a safe haven for criminals and someone gets hurt, you should be held responsible. Sure, the criminal is responsible too, but the criminal chose that location for a reason, and the reason is often because of the property owner’s negligence.