Posted on Aug 31, 2023

A violent confrontation escalated into a fatal shooting at a Fort Pierce gas station, leading to the arrest of a 23-year-old man. Fort Pierce Police Department officials reported that officers were dispatched to Rocket Fuel on 3227 South U.S. Highway 1 at 6:46 p.m. on August 23, following a call about a gunshot injury.

Upon arrival, officers discovered a 33-year-old man from St. Lucie County grievously injured with multiple gunshot wounds. Emergency services swiftly transported him to HCA Florida Lawnwood Hospital, where he ultimately succumbed to his injuries.

Law enforcement revealed that the incident was precipitated by a dispute between the 33-year-old victim and Brigham Miller, also from St. Lucie County. After conducting a thorough investigation, authorities apprehended Miller and booked him into county jail, where he is now facing charges of first-degree murder.

How to Pursue a Florida Negligent Security Claim After a Loved One is Killed in a Gas Station Shooting

Losing a loved one is an unimaginable tragedy, and the emotional toll is even greater when their death occurs in a setting where you would reasonably expect safety. In Florida, if your loved one is killed due to a shooting at a gas station, you might be eligible to file a negligent security claim against the property owner. Below, we'll guide you through the steps to pursue such a claim.

Understanding Negligent Security

Negligent security falls under the umbrella of premises liability law. In essence, property owners have an obligation to maintain a safe environment. Failure to do so, which then leads to an incident like a shooting, could make the property owner liable for damages.

What Constitutes Negligent Security?

When assessing whether a property owner has provided negligent security, several factors come into play. Each of these factors can critically impact the safety of visitors or customers and can serve as the basis for a negligent security claim if inadequately addressed.

Inadequate Lighting

Proper lighting is essential for ensuring safety, especially during nighttime hours. Poorly lit areas can create hiding spots for criminals and increase the likelihood of criminal activities such as robbery or assault. Inadequate lighting can be a significant contributing factor to an incident, making property owners potentially liable for any harm that comes to individuals due to this negligence.

Lack of Security Personnel

Adequate staffing of trained security personnel is another cornerstone of a secure environment. Security officers serve as a visible deterrent to crime and can provide immediate assistance in case of an emergency. The absence of security staff can signify a failure on the part of the property owner to take reasonable steps to ensure the safety of guests, and may serve as a basis for a negligent security claim.

Non-Operational Security Cameras

Surveillance cameras serve multiple purposes. They deter criminal activities, provide evidence in case of an incident and can be actively monitored to catch suspicious behavior in real-time. Non-operational or poorly maintained security cameras negate these benefits and could be construed as negligence on the part of the property owner.

Failure to Respond to Known Threats

Property owners have a duty to address known risks proactively. If there have been previous incidents of violent crime or other security concerns at or near the property, the owner is obligated to take reasonable steps to address these issues. Ignoring known threats or failing to implement adequate security measures can lead to a negligent security claim should an incident occur.

Gathering Evidence: The Cornerstone of Your Negligent Security Claim

In the realm of legal proceedings, the importance of concrete evidence cannot be overstated. To build a compelling negligent security claim, you will need various types of evidence that not only corroborate your account but also establish the liability of the property owner. Below, we delve into different categories of evidence that can significantly bolster your claim.

Surveillance Footage: The Visual Testimony

Surveillance footage can serve as a powerful piece of evidence by offering a visual record of the incident as it unfolded. Acquiring this footage could provide a first-hand account, capturing essential details that may otherwise be overlooked or disputed. For instance, it can show the absence of security personnel at the time of the crime or demonstrate that the area where the incident occurred was poorly lit.

Witness Statements: Voices that Corroborate

Eyewitness testimony can lend significant weight to your case. Witnesses can corroborate specific events, timings, and conditions, thereby supporting your version of what transpired. Obtaining statements from individuals who were present during the incident can add credibility and nuance to your claim.

Police Reports: The Official Account

A police report often serves as an authoritative document that outlines the essential facts and circumstances surrounding the incident. It can include various elements like the statements of the parties involved, witnesses, and sometimes even preliminary findings. Such a report can offer an unbiased, third-party perspective and thereby strengthen your case.

Crime Reports: Establishing Foreseeability

Crime reports detailing previous incidents in the vicinity of the gas station can be instrumental in proving that the crime was foreseeable, and therefore, preventable. These reports can show a pattern of crime or safety concerns in the area, putting the onus on the property owner to have taken additional security measures. A history of similar crimes at or near the location can make it difficult for the property owner to argue that they could not have foreseen the risk, thereby strengthening your negligent security claim.

By judiciously gathering and utilizing these types of evidence, you are arming yourself with the tools necessary to substantiate your claim convincingly. The more comprehensive your evidence, the stronger your case will be, increasing the likelihood of a favorable outcome.

Steps to File a Negligent Security Claim in Florida

Pursuing a negligent security claim involves a meticulous process that requires keen attention to legal procedures and deadlines. Given the complexity and emotional gravity of these cases, it's crucial to follow the right steps to maximize your chances of a favorable outcome. Here's a detailed breakdown of each step.

Consult with a Florida Negligent Security Attorney

Negligent security claims fall within a specialized realm of law that merges aspects of personal injury and premises liability. Due to this complexity, it's crucial to consult with an attorney experienced in both personal injury and wrongful death cases.

An initial consultation will typically involve a review of the facts and the viability of your claim. The attorney can provide insights into potential damages, the likelihood of success, and the roadmap for legal action.

Serve Notice to the Defendant

Should you decide to proceed with the case, the next step involves serving notice to the property owner, who is the defendant in this case. Your attorney will draft this notice to let the defendant(s) or potent defendant(s) know that you intent to pursue a claim and that you have an attorney.

Investigation and Discovery

After serving notice, both parties enter a phase known as "discovery," where they gather evidence to support their respective positions. This phase involves sharing documents, interviewing witnesses under oath (known as depositions), and collecting any other evidence like surveillance footage or crime reports.

The purpose is to ascertain the facts unequivocally and prepare for either settlement negotiations or trial. Your attorney will guide you through this rigorous process, helping you gather the most compelling evidence for your case.

Settlement or Trial

Once both sides have a grasp of the facts in the case, your attorney will likely enter into negotiations with the defendant or their insurance company to attempt to reach a settlement out of court. Settlements can provide quicker resolutions and guaranteed compensation.

If settlement negotiations stall or if you and your attorney believe that the offer is not fair, the case may proceed to trial. A trial is a more drawn-out and unpredictable process but could result in justice, depending on how the jury feels about the case.