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Inadequate Security Premises Liability Verdict Affirmed

$45 Million Award Upheld for Atlanta Man Shot in CVS Pharmacy Parking Lot

An appellate court decision in Georgia late in 2021 reiterated significant elements of inadequate security premises liability claims along with affirming a jury verdict of $45 million against CVS. The judgment was awarded to a man who sustained serious and permanent injuries as a result of a shooting incident in the parking lot of an Atlanta-area CVS Pharmacy.

Facts of the Atlanta Case and Appeal

The victim was a visitor to a CVS Pharmacy in Atlanta who had the misfortune of being present during a robbery on the premises in 2012. He was shot multiple times and left with injuries that were both severe and permanent. The shooting occurred in a part of the city that was recognized as being a high crime area. A trial jury found CVS primarily liable for the incident and the victim’s injuries and awarded a $45 million verdict. CVS appealed both the verdict and the trial court’s denial of its motion for a new trial. The company argued that insufficient evidence had been presented either to prove CVS’s responsibility for the injuries or its awareness of dangerous security problems on the premises.

Inadequate Security Premises Liability Principles in this Case

A general principle that must be proven in inadequate security premises liability cases is that the defendants — typically the owners and/or operators of the property — should have been able to foresee the danger that resulted in injury. In this particular case, multiple CVS employees had presented testimony and evidence of:

  • Inadequate security, inadequate outdoor lighting, and other unsafe conditions at the store.
  • A history of three other violent incidents on the property just within the prior two years.
  • No surprise on the employees’ part that the 2012 shooting had occurred.

Based upon this “ample evidence,” the appellate court specifically found that the robbery and shooting was reasonably foreseeable on the part of CVS.

Another element in these premises liability claims under Georgia law and the laws of most states is that the victim must be unaware of the dangerous condition and must have been acting reasonably for their own safety. The appellate court, in this case, determined that the victim — who was actually a resident of a different state — was unaware of the dangerous security history, inadequate lighting, and other problems with the CVS premises and that he was doing nothing unreasonable with regard to protecting his own safety.

Premises Owners and Operators Cannot Ignore Security and Safety

This case from Georgia highlighted numerous failings on the part of the premises operator that are seen all too frequently in other cases of injuries and tragic deaths resulting from inadequate security. Among other problems and red flags:

  • Female employees were often escorted to their cars by male employees because the staff felt the parking lot area was unsafe;
  • Employees typically parked as close to the store as possible because they felt the parking area lighting was inadequate;
  • At least two employees stated the site safety issues were severe;
  • CVS previously had private security guards on-site, but had removed them two years prior to the incident;
  • CVS largely ignored their own employees’ requests and suggestions for improved security;
  • Two holdups of store employees at gunpoint had occurred within the prior year;
  • The armed robbery of a customer occurred in the parking lot earlier the same year.

Ignoring multiple warning signs such as these is clearly negligent, but unfortunately, is far too common. In fact, in this case, after the plaintiff’s security expert had testified that improved lighting and security guards are known deterrents for crime, the CVS expert could only agree with this observation. Sadly for the victim of this shooting incident, acknowledging the helpfulness of proper lighting and security came too late.

Successfully Pursuing Inadequate Security Premises Liability Personal Injury Claims

As shown in this Georgia trial and successful appellate decision, important elements that must be proven in cases involving personal injuries from inadequate premises security include:

  • Foreseeability/awareness of the danger by the premises owner/operator;
  • Inadequate steps taken to eliminate the danger;
  • Lack of notice to the injury victim of the presence of the danger; and
  • Reasonable actions by the injury victim to protect their safety.

When premises liability claims also involve obviously dangerous actions by third parties – such as the armed robber in this Atlanta case – the matters to be proven become even more complicated. This is where an experienced premises liability attorney can be most of service to a client.

View this video from the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s office on parking lot security and safety:

Sacramento Premises Liability Attorney

Hello, my name is Ed Smith, and I am a Sacramento Premises Liability Attorney. Premises owners and operators who are or should be aware of dangerous conditions on their properties have an obligation to remedy those dangers before they result in harm to visitors. That includes foreseeable dangerous conditions that are caused by other parties – such as armed robberies or gang violence. If you or a member of your family has experienced a serious injury due to dangerous premises conditions such as inadequate security, please give us a call at (916) 921-6400 or (800) 404-5400 for free, friendly advice. You can also reach us by using our online contact form.

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