Posted on Dec 08, 2023

On Wednesday, November 22, 2023, a shooting took place outside of a Sunoco gas station in Tallahassee, FL. One man suffered serious injuries from the shooting and another man was taken into custody. 24-year-old Mon’tavious Bruce was arrested shortly after the shooting and is facing charges of attempted first-degree murder.

The shooting happened at the Sunoco located at 2720 Blair Stone Road in Tallahassee sometime midmorning. When the victim was walking out of the store, Bruce apparently shot him multiple times. According to information that's available, Bruce and the victim knew each other before the shooting. Although the victim survived the gunshot wounds, he did suffer serious injuries.

Firearm Death Statistics in Florida

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there were 3,142 firearm-related deaths in Florida in 2021 alone. This yields a death rate of 14.1 deaths per 100,000 people. Although this number may seem high, Florida’s firearm death rate is relatively low compared to other states. In fact, Florida was ranked around #34, from highest firearm death rate to lowest.

The Elements of a Successful Negligent Security Claim

A successful negligent security case hinges on several critical legal elements. The claimant must establish or prove each element by a preponderance of the evidence to hold a property owner liable for injuries sustained due to inadequate security measures. Here’s a breakdown of the necessary components:

Duty of Care

The foundation of a negligent security case rests on the duty of care owed by the property owner to the individuals on their premises. This duty entails the obligation to provide a reasonably safe environment for folks visiting the property to purchase goods and services and includes implementing adequate security measures to protect patrons against foreseeable criminal acts.

Breach of Duty

Once duty is established, the claimant must show that the property owner breached this duty. A breach occurs when the property owner fails to uphold the duty of care expected under the circumstances. This could involve the absence of security cameras, inadequate lighting in the parking lot, lack of security personnel, or insufficient response protocols for emergency situations.

Causation

Causation links the breach of duty directly to the injuries sustained. Claimants must demonstrate that the property owner’s negligence was the proximate cause of the harm. This means showing that if the property owner had not breached their duty—by providing proper security, for instance—the injuries would not have occurred.

Damages

The injuries or harm must have resulted in damages. Damages can include things like physical injuries, mental anguish, medical expenses, lost wages, and other losses that are a direct result of the incident. These damages must be quantifiable and are typically proven through medical records, expert testimony, and documentation of financial losses.

Foreseeability

Foreseeability is the property owner’s ability to anticipate the criminal act that occurred. It is a critical element because it ties the duty of care to the specific incident. If a crime is foreseeable—such as if there have been similar incidents in the past or the area is known for such criminal activity—the property owner has a higher obligation to take preventative measures.

How Foreseeability Comes into Play

Foreseeability determines the scope of the duty of care in a negligent security case. The question we have to ask when analyzing potential liability is whether a reasonable person in the property owner’s position would have anticipated the risk of the criminal act occurring on the property. If there’s a history of crime on the property or in the vicinity of the gas station, there’s a better argument that the property owner could have foreseen the possibility of violent criminal attacks on the property. The more foreseeable the crime, the more onus that’s on the property owner to take steps to make the property safer.

In the context of a violent attack at a gas station, the relationship between the victim and the shooter can come into play. For example, if the victim and the attacker knew each other and were determined to hurt each other, the property owner could argue that such an attack is less foreseeable and thus preventable than random acts of violence.

However, if there were prior altercations between the parties on the property or threats made that the property owner was aware of, this type of attack could still be considered foreseeable. If so, the owner would have had a duty to take actions or implement security measures to prevent such incidents. This is where these types of cases can get complicated, and you can see how both sides might argue for or against liability.

In conclusion, proving a negligent security case requires a detailed demonstration of duty, breach, causation, and damages, with foreseeability playing a pivotal role in connecting the duty of care to the specific incident.