Fatal Shooting at Florida Nightclub Raises Issue of Premises Liability

A 19-year-old Palm Beach State College student and star basketball player was gunned down in front of an Ocala nightclub while in town to visit family and friends on the weekend. She planned to return to campus the following Sunday evening, but her parents got a call in the middle of the night, waking them to their worst nightmare.
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Investigators told the Ocala Star Banner at least one gunman opened fire into the crowd outside Cloud 9 nightclub, striking Benetria Robinson, a college freshman who was also taking online classes at Florida State University.

Her mother and several other mourners went to the site the next morning, losing composure when they saw blood on the sidewalk where she fell. At least five others were shot, though the rest are all expected to survive.

The horrific scene raises questions about what the nightclub could have done to prevent such a tragedy.

If there is evidence to suggest the owners or managers could have done more to prevent the incident, such as providing more security guards or using metal detectors or having better lighting – there could be grounds for Robinson’s family to pursue civil litigation for premises liability against the nightclub.

These type of actions are particularly successful at locations where arguments and fights are the norm, night-after-night. In those cases, it is easier to assert the owners knew or should have known such violence was probable, and yet failed to take appropriate action to stop it.

Of course, the person who enacted such violence – the gunman – could also be held civilly liable as well as criminally responsible. However, in many cases, it’s not worth it to sue an attacker in a situation like this because most people don’t have the money or insurance to cover the full extent of loss. This is why we often then turn our attentions to third parties, such as the bar or nightclub.

Much of it depends on the type of establishment. For example, if a bar caters mostly to older customers who have a drink or two before attending a theater production, that location probably doesn’t need much security. On the other hand, if a bar caters to punk rock fans, plays heavy, high-energy music and commonly must deal with drug use and fights, that place is going to be held to a higher standard.

In addition to the issue of adequate security at the business, one might also examine the alcohol service policies. If the attacker was intoxicated and was served an excessive alcohol by the establishment, that might be grounds to take action as well.

In Robinson’s case, authorities have not yet identified the gunman. They have said it appears an altercation took place inside the establishment and spilled out into the parking lot, where shots were fired. It’s important to note that businesses are still liable for the safety of patrons in their parking lot, as well as inside their club.

The investigation is ongoing.

Call Fort Lauderdale Injury Attorney Richard Ansara at (954) 761-4011. Serving Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties.

Additional Resources:
Woman killed, five injured in shooting at Cloud 9 in Ocala, Sept. 13, 2015, By Joe Callahan, Ocala Star Banner
More Blog Entries:
Sorrels v. NCL – Slip-and-Fall on Cruise Ship, Aug. 11, 2015, Fort Lauderdale Nightclub Injury Lawyer Blog