A teenager who was struck with a stray bullet and paralyzed has reached a $7.5 million settlement.
The plaintiff – who was 13 at the time – was visiting friends, when she was shot in their apartment complex parking lot. According to the plaintiff’s counsel, John Jensen, a stray bullet from a gang-related shooting severed her spinal cord, resulting in paraplegia.
According to Jensen, this was not the first record of violent crimes causing harm to innocent residents and visitors on apartment complex property.
The plaintiff brought claims against the apartment complex owners and property managers for inadequate security. Although defendants disputed liability for the plaintiff’s injuries caused by criminal acts of third persons, North Carolina law holds that if circumstances give the landowner reason to know that third persons were likely to endanger visitors to the property, a duty may exist to protect or warn the visitor, Jensen reported. The plaintiff’s counsel argued that the shooting was foreseeable based on prior criminal activity at the apartment complex and in the surrounding neighborhoods.
Jensen reported that there were nearly 10,000 calls for service reporting violent criminal activity and/or requesting police assistance from a half-mile radius surrounding the apartment complex during the four years prior to the plaintiff’s injury. Additionally, during the three years leading up to the events at issue, there had been numerous shootings that occurred in the apartment complex common areas that were tragically similar to this incident.
The plaintiff’s counsel reported, despite numerous violent crimes occurring on the property, the apartment owners and management took no steps to try to keep the complex safer for its residents or their visitors. According to Jensen, it was common for other other apartment complexes in the area to have video cameras, security gates, perimeter fencing, a neighborhood watch program, security guards, and adequate lighting in the parking lots and around the buildings.
At the defendant apartment complex, these precautions were lacking, despite police officers considering the apartment property to be high crime area.
“Despite the fact that this was a gang related shooting, we felt very strongly that the apartment complex could have done more to protect the residents and their visitors,” Jensen said. “This was not a case where the apartment complex made efforts to keep the property safe and fell short. This was a case where the property management – despite the violent crime occurring in its common areas – chose to do nothing. Because of this cavalier attitude toward safety, our client’s life has been forever changed.”
In September 2022, the plaintiff settled for $7.5 million.
Type of Action: Inadequate security and personal injury
Injuries Alleged: 13-year-old plaintiff suffered paraplegia with loss of bowel and bladder function
Name of Case: Confidential
Case #: Confidential
Verdict or Settlement: Settlement
Amount: $7.5 million
Date of Settlement: September 2022
Attorneys for Plaintiffs: John Jensen, Jensen Law Group (Chapel Hill) and Michele Cybulski, Guardian Ad Litem, Deuterman Law Group (Greensboro)
Attorneys for Defendant: Confidential
Were liability and/or damages contested: Yes
Was opposing party represented by legal counsel: Yes
Has the plaintiff been successful in collecting the judgment: Yes