$20,000,000 Jury Verdict- Negligent Security
Florencio Gomez Mendez left his wife and 3 children in Chiapas, Mexico, to come to Atlanta, Georgia in search of economic opportunity and a better life for them all. He found work and lived in Bradford Ridge Apartments, a Clayton County, Georgia apartment complex. It was an immigrant community, largely pedestrian since many workers didn’t have their own vehicle. Residents would often walk to the grocery store or convenience store to get food and the other things they needed. One night Florencio was walking home from the store and was approached by three men he did not know. They shot him and left him to die. He managed to crawl about 50 yards in search of help. He was found dead on the grounds of the apartment complex.
Shiver Hamilton’s mission is to seek justice for people like Florencio who have suffered a wrongful death due to the negligence of others. Bradford Ridge Apartments had a history of negligence. Shiver Hamilton had previously represented the family of a 13-year-old boy who had been shot and killed 18 months prior in the same apartment complex. Shiver Hamilton attorneys had obtained a favorable settlement for his family in that case. They were familiar with the ownership and management of the complex. They knew that numerous crimes had been committed at the apartment complex.
Most importantly, their investigation revealed that no meaningful security measures had been implemented to protect residents from predators in the subsequent period. The apartment complex had not installed surveillance cameras. They had not hired off-duty police officers to ensure a safe environment for residents. Shiver Hamilton filed a civil lawsuit alleging unsafe premises due to negligent security. They requested $20 million in damages, $18 million to compensate Florencio’s family for the loss of his life and $2 million for Florencio’s pain and suffering.
The attorneys at Shiver Hamilton have a proven track record of winning judgments for their clients who have suffered personal attack or injury due to insufficient security measures. When property owners don’t take the minimum steps to ensure their customers and tenants aren’t hurt by negligent security, the injured or victimized party may be entitled to compensation. To prove that the property owner allowed a negligent security situation to exist, it is necessary to prove that he or she had prior knowledge of the hazardous conditions and did not take reasonable steps to protect customers and tenants from danger.
Shiver Hamilton brings compassion and zeal to every case. They dedicate whatever resources are necessary to make sure clients are treated fairly and that justice is done. They know there is more at stake than just a legal judgement, that clients often need counsel across a range of problems and issues that go beyond the particulars of their case. They value the people they represent as deserving of justice and respect.
The lawyers of Shiver Hamilton also prepare all their cases to go to trial, alerting insurance companies and corporate defendants that they won’t settle for anything less than full justice for their clients. Preparing the case for trial is the only way to consistently achieve the best outcomes. Opposing counsel must know that Shiver Hamilton’s clients are represented by skilled and experienced trial lawyers with all the necessary legal resources to win jury judgements.
The men who killed Florencio were never apprehended by the police. The insurance company representing Bradford Ridge, the defendants in the case, denied all responsibility for Florencio’s death. They tried to settle the case before trial, but offered Florencio’s family only $1 million in compensation. Shiver Hamilton has extensive experience in negligent security cases and a solid record of achieving fair settlements for their clients. They were confident they could demonstrate to a jury that Florencio’s murder could have been prevented if adequate security measures had been in place at Bradford Ridge, and that such a low offer was not acceptable. Shiver Hamilton was joined by Darren Summerville and Mecca Anderson of The Summerville Firm.
The trial required a great deal of investigative work by Shiver Hamilton. Witnesses, fearing retribution, are often reluctant to testify in cases such as this. They hired private investigators and convinced witnesses to come forward for the good of the community and the Mendez family. Florencio’s widow, Pascuala, was a Tzotzil Indian. She spoke no English, or much Spanish for that matter, and had never travelled outside of the Chiapas region of Mexico. She went to the regional capital of Tuxtla to be deposed for trial preparation and was eventually brought to the United States to testify at the trial. She did so courageously, even under fierce cross examination by skilled defense attorneys.
The trial lasted two weeks. On Sept. 9, 2016, a Clayton County jury returned a $20 million verdict for the widow and children of Florencio Gomez Mendez. The jury apportioned 50% fault to the defendants and 50% to the criminals for a total verdict of $10 million against the defendants. Because the insurance company had denied a prior settlement offer and the verdict was greater than 125% of the plaintiffs’ prior offer, the defendants were also ordered to pay plaintiffs’ attorneys fees.
Shiver Hamilton successfully demonstrated to the jury that the poor working people of Bradford Ridge and other Atlanta, Georgia communities have a right to expect better treatment. People should feel safe in their homes and in their communities. Properties owners have responsibilities to the residents they are contractually obligated to serve. Many witnesses testified to the dangerous environment and the harassment they had experienced by the criminal element on the property. There was a clear record of criminality on the premises, no meaningful attempts to make the property safe for residents, and a concerted effort to avoid financial responsibility. The jury verdict returned was the full amount that Shiver Hamilton had requested.