The law is designed to promote safer communities. An appeals court decision last week will help to do just that.

In 2013, a young family was leaving a grocery store in a Columbus shopping center when they got into a verbal altercation with a couple that was in the parking lot to buy cocaine. The argument escalated until the drug buyer intentionally ran the couple over with his car. 34-year-old Jason Barry died at the scene in front of his 16-year-old son. The car caused severe crush injuries to Tina’s legs.

My investigation showed that the 365,000 square foot shopping center had no security of any type. It had no security although, among others:
• Nearly daily police dispatches (1,359 total) to the shopping center in the three years before the incident;
• A security expert consulted by the shopping center shortly before the incident advised it needed security or someone would get hurt;
• 12 of 16 tenants interviewed by the management company before the incident said they felt unsafe at the shopping center without security;
• Several tenants emailed management directly to request security before the incident; several tenants had been subjected to armed robberies;
• A widely-used crime forecasting service found the risk of violence at the shopping center 7 times the national average

Despite knowing all this, management took no action to make its shopping center any safer. We felt that it had some responsibility for what later happened to Tina and Jason.

The trial court disagreed. It found there was no way for the shopping center to foresee this specific act and specific harm and thus the shopping center had no duty to do anything.

The appeals court reversed and remanded the case for trial. It noted that a court must consider the “totality of circumstances” to determine whether a criminal threat is foreseeable to impose a duty on the property owner. It found the totality of circumstances in this case somewhat overwhelming.

The case will continue on in the near future. The Henry Law Firm will always fight to make the community safer for us and our families.

Full decision attached.

Full decision