In a scene resembling a mafia movie, five people were shot on April 15, 2021, at the Oakwood Terrace Apartments in Pensacola, Florida after four unidentified suspects drove their vehicle through a broken, open gate at the apartment complex.
The suspects exited the vehicle and fired forty rounds at a group of people gathered outside the building. Although the victims were not killed, all of them were hospitalized, and some suffered serious injuries.
Several victims of the shooting filed a lawsuit against the apartment complex’s managing and operating companies. The plaintiffs are seeking $10 million in damages.
The lawsuit named DM Oakwood Terrace, LLC, the company that operates the apartment complex, and Marquis Asset Management Inc., the management company, as defendants. The plaintiffs allege that the defendants could have prevented the shooting had they provided adequate security measures.
COULD THE APARTMENT COMPLEX SHOOTING HAVE BEEN PREVENTED?
The plaintiffs suing the apartment complex’s ownership and management allege that the shooting could have been prevented because the defendants were aware of the potential for violence and criminal acts on the property but failed to take reasonable steps to prevent the shooting.
Since the beginning of this year, police officers have responded to over 480 calls to Oakwood Terrace in Pensacola, ranging from complaints about loud noise to reports of missing people and armed disturbances.
The plaintiffs cited the number of police calls for service to prove that the complex’s managing and operating companies were grossly and willfully negligent because they knew or should have known about the prior history of violence on the property.
In 2020, a local rapper was shot and killed at the apartment complex.
WHY ARE THE SHOOTING VICTIMS SUING THE OWNER OF THE APARTMENT COMPLEX?
The lawsuit claims that the defendants failed to do all of the following to prevent the shooting:
- Take reasonable measures to prevent people who are likely to cause harm to the apartment complex’s residents and guests from entering the premises;
- Enhance security measures by implementing proper policies and procedures;
- Take appropriate measures to prevent trespassers and criminals from entering the premises;
- Put reliable and efficient security measures in place;
- Provide adequate surveillance on the property by using cameras and/or security personnel;
- Provide appropriate fencing and ensure a functional security gate (the gate was broken and open at the time of the incident); and
- Provide adequate lighting on the property.
The Marquis Asset Management, which owns 20 properties in Texas, Oklahoma, and Florida, receives funding from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to provide residents with affordable housing.
The Oakwood Terrace Apartments is one of the HUD-funded properties, which means the owner of the property is required to ensure a safe environment. But the shooting victims who filed a lawsuit believe that the operating and managing companies of the complex failed to provide a safe environment and adequate security measures to keep them safe.
WAS THE SHOOTING FORESEEABLE?
In general, property owners, including landlords, are not liable for acts of violence by third parties that are legally unforeseeable. For example, just because there have been reported acts of other, different acts of violence in an apartment complex does not mean that the landlord would be held liable for failing to predict and prevent a brazen, mass shooting.
What do you think? Should the apartment complex be held liable for the shooting victims’ injuries due to the lack of security measures or was this shooting unforeseeable due to its brazen and shocking nature?