Premises Liability Lawsuit Involving Fatal Domestic Shooting to Proceed

A man fatally shoots his wife and two young daughters at a restaurant. Is the restaurant liable for failing to protect the victims? gun

The plaintiff in a premises liability lawsuit in Ohio alleges the restaurant failed to do enough to protect the family, despite having knowledge they might be in danger. The plaintiff called this behavior a conscious disregard for the safety of patrons.

The facts in the 2012 incident are sharply disputed, but this is exactly why a county common pleas judge in Ohio ruled not to grant summary judgment in favor of the defendant restaurant, which argued the violence was not foreseeable, and therefore it had no duty to protect.

According to news reports from the Cleveland Plain Dealer, the family had gone to the restaurant for one of the girls’ birthdays. The four were seated for dinner when the mother informed her spouse of a dozen years she wanted a divorce. Over the course of the half hour that followed, the husband grabbed his wife’s keys, and a number of shotgun shells accidentally spilled from his pocket. He exited the restaurant but then returned to pay the bill, at which time he shouted an expletive and seemed very angry. He then left again and came back with a gun. It was at that point that he shot his daughters. He was soon afterward shot by police in the restaurant entrance.

Those facts are not in question. What is disputed is the discussion the wife had with the manager of the store during that time, the actions taken by restaurant staffers, and whether those were sufficient.

The wife reportedly had a discussion with the manager of the establishment after her husband confiscated her car keys and before he started shooting. The question is whether this should have spurred the manager into taking action, and if so, which kind of action would have been sufficient.

According to the account of the plaintiff (the wife’s brother, the girls’ uncle, and the representative of their estates), the wife requested help from the manager. A friend, who was talking on the phone to the woman, later said he told her to ask the manager to help the girls hide. Another patron reported seeing the wife speaking to the manager soon after the squabble with the keys.

The manager’s account has differed. He said in one written affidavit that he offered to allow the woman to use his own phone to find alternative transportation after she told him her husband had left with her keys. He said she never asked for help to hide and didn’t mention that her husband had threatened her. Later, in another deposition, he left out any mention of the conversation and said he didn’t realize there was a problem at all until he started hearing gunshots.

The plaintiff’s attorney said the premises liability wrongful death claim was predicated on the assertion that the store and its employees were aware of the possible danger to these three individuals and failed to protect them with simple, common sense actions. Rather than aid them, the plaintiff alleges, the manager did nothing.

The judge did not side with the plaintiff on this fact but instead ruled it should be up to a jury to consider it.

The case is slated for trial in March, although it’s possible it could be settled before its court date.

Contact the Carolina injury lawyers at the Lee Law Offices by calling 800-887-1965.

Additional Resources:

Lawsuit against Cracker Barrel in 2012 domestic shooting can go forward, judge rules, Dec. 30, 2016, By Cory Shaffer, Cleveland.com

More Blog Entries:

Oakland Fire Tragedy Likely to Spark Premises Liability Lawsuits, Dec. 26, 2016, Charlotte Premises Liability Lawyer Blog

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