Articles Posted in Inadequate Security

The family of a woman whose body was found in the stairwell of a San Francisco hospital weeks after she went missing from her hospital bed has filed a legal claim with the city, indicating their intention to file a lawsuit. The claim is a mandatory prerequisite to a lawsuit against city and county agencies. The family’s claim alleges medical malpractice, negligence, dangerous property conditions, and violations of the state elder abuse and adult dependency statute. Hospital workers have accused the hospital of serious understaffing, to the point that it compromises patient safety. The hospital has announced two rounds of changes to its security procedures as a result of the incident, including access controls, patient checks, and a missing patient policy.

The decedent, 57 year-old Lynn Spalding Ford, checked into San Francisco General Hospital on September 19, 2013. On September 21, a hospital worker reported her missing. The worker allegedly described Spalding, who is white, as a black woman, and some hospital paperwork described her as Asian. The San Francisco Sheriff’s Department (SFSD), which handles hospital security, searched the hospital perimeter but did not classify Spalding as missing. Surveillance footage was not available to authorities until October 4. The hospital did not ask SFSD to search the entire 24-acre hospital campus until September 30, after Spalding had been missing for nine days. The search did not include all of the stairwells.

On October 4, a hospital employee reported a person lying on the 3rd- or 4th-floor stairwell of Stairwell 8. A fifth-floor employee reported hearing banging from Stairwell 8 the same day. There is no indication that anyone searched that stairwell in response to these reports. An employee with the hospital’s engineering department finally found Spalding’s body during a routine check of an exterior stairwell on October 8. Spalding had been missing for seventeen days. Both the hospital and SFSD said that the stairwell is alarmed, only exits to the first floor, and is only used as a fire exit. The medical examiner listed her cause of death as dehydration and alcoholism complications, but could not say for certain when she died.

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The families of two women killed during a 2007 shooting rampage on the Virginia Tech campus received a jury award of $4 million each in their claims against the university for negligence. The jury found that the university negligently delayed warnings about Seung-Hui Cho, who had shot and killed two people in a campus dormitory two-and-a-half hours before embarking on the deadliest shooting spree in modern American history. Cho ultimately killed thirty-two people before turning a gun on himself. The university, backed by the Commonwealth of Virginia, is now asserting a state law that caps damage awards against the state at $100,000, as the families fight back.

Cho was a 23 year-old undergraduate student at Virginia Tech with a history of mental illness and “abnormal behavior.” His shooting spree began at about 7:15 a.m. on April 16, 2007, when he killed two students on the fourth floor of a high-rise dormitory. Cho then reportedly spent approximately two-and-a-half hours re-arming himself and mailing a package a photographs and documents to NBC News. At about 9:45 a.m., he went to a classroom building across the campus where he shot dozens of people, killing thirty, over the course of nine minutes. Cho then committed suicide when police breached the building.

Virginia Tech soon faced accusations that it negligently failed to warn students and staff after the first two murders, which allowed Cho’s rampage to proceed almost unimpeded. Police initially thought the first two deaths resulted from a “romantic dispute.” The university sent an e-mail to students and staff advising them to be cautious more than two hours later, roughly twenty minutes before Cho’s second attack began. Multiple negligence and wrongful death lawsuits followed.

The families of twenty-four of Cho’s victims, as well as eighteen people injured by the shootings, settled with the state in 2008 for $11 million. Several families refused to settle, and two of them recently went to trial.

In March 2012, a trial took place in a courtroom in Christiansburg, Virginia for the families of two victims, Erin Peterson and Julia Pryde. The university repeated many of its defenses, maintaining that officials believed Cho had fled the campus after the first two shootings, and that they did not connect the two series of shootings until later. The jury, after deliberating for just over three hours, returned a verdict finding that Virginia Tech officials were negligent in delaying warnings about the first two shootings, and that this delay directly contributed to the victims’ deaths. It awarded $4 million to each family .

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Four American civilians employed by security contractor Blackwater were killed in Fallujah, Iraq in March 2004 after gunmen opened fire on their vehicles. When the vehicles stopped, a crowd of people converged, throwing rocks and setting the vehicles on fire. The four men were shot and killed and, in a scene that would haunt American headlines, their bodies were pulled from the burned vehicles and dragged through the city. Pictures shown on television depicted people mutilating the bodies and hanging two of them from a bridge over the Euphrates River. Media around the world showed these images. The U.S. launched an assault on the city in response to the incident, which occurred at the beginning of the second year of American involvement in Iraq.

The four men worked as guards for Blackwater, now known as Academi. Blackwater was contracted by the U.S. military to provide various security services for American forces. One of the men was a former Navy SEAL, and the other three were former Army Rangers. At the time of the attack, they were traveling in two Mitsubishi SUV’s escorting a convoy of trucks to an American base to pick up some kitchen equipment. They had reportedly bypassed a Marine checkpoint when they entered Fallujah.

In January 2005, about eight months after the attack, the families of the four men filed a lawsuit in U.S. federal court against Blackwater. The lawsuit accused Blackwater of violating its contractual obligations to the men by putting them in harm’s way without adequate armor or weapons. The SUV’s were not armored, and they did not have sufficient personnel to operate rear guns that might have offered protection from gunmen in the city.

Blackwater argued that it should have immunity from lawsuits under the principle of sovereign immunity. This principle typically applies to government entities and officials. Blackwater, being a private business, argued that the military’s widespread use of private contractors gave them the benefit of sovereign immunity. The company took this argument as far as the U.S. Supreme Court, who declined to hear the case. Then Blackwater invoked a mandatory arbitration clause in the men’s employment contracts.

A federal judge ordered the parties to arbitration in 2007, and they spent more than three years fighting over payment of arbitrators’ fees. The families filed an appeal of the judge’s order with the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, and the parties entered into a settlement agreement before the appeal could be heard. The terms of the settlement remain confidential.

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Just two weeks after 22-year-old Jared Lee Loughner stood outside a Safeway in Arizona, fatally shooting six people and injuring 13 others, including US Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, another shooter has shot dead two people and injured two others outside a Walmart store in the state of Washington. The two incidents are unrelated. Like everyone else in America, the thoughts and well wishes of our Washington DC injury lawyers are with the injured, the deceased, and their loved ones.

The latest tragic incident happened late today after three sheriff’s deputies arrived at the store to follow up on a bystander’s call that there was a suspicious looking person in the store. When deputies approached a man outside the store he tried to flee before turning around and shooting at them. The male shooter was eventually shot dead in the Walmart parking lot.

Two of the deputies were injured in the shooting. A young female, who is reporting might have been a teenager, later died from her injuries. An investigation is underway to determine what happened.

Two adult males say they were assaulted on a Green Line train that was going to Branch Avenue. Metro Police arrived at L’Enfant Plaza Station early Thursday following the alleged incident.

According to the Washington Post, one witness says that when the train arrived at the station and the doors opened, one man was on the ground. Another victim was being beaten by another man.

This assault incident comes just a few weeks after at least four people suffered injuries during a brawl involving 70 people that began in rail car and moved onto the platform at the L’Enfant Plaza Station on August 6. Metro Transit Police say the dispute occurred as young people boarded the train to abide by the 11pm youth curfew. Two juveniles were arrested.

It was just earlier this summer that several boys beat a teenager unconscious over a pair of Air Jordan shoes. The fight took place at Union Station.

With the school year about to kick off, more transit officers are expected to ride the DC Metro to keep a watch on students.

Washington DC Premises Liability

Property owners are supposed to ensure there is adequate security to prevent violent crimes from occurring on their premise. Failure to provide that security—especially when there has been a history of violent crimes—can be grounds for a Washington DC injury case. Additional security guards, regular security patrols, surveillance cameras, proper lighting, crowd control measures, and emergency alarm devices are just some examples of measures a property owner can take to make a premise safer for others.

2 men injured after late-night assault on Green Line train, The Washington Post, August 27, 2010
Youth Metro brawl leaves 5 in hospital, countless others injured, Examiner, August 9, 2010
3 Charged, 4 to Hospital, in 70-Person Brawl at L’Enfant Metro, ABC7, August 7, 2010
Related Web Resources:

Washington Metropolitan Transit Authority

Crime Statistics, WMATA
Premises Liability, Justia

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According to DC police, the man who was found fatally stabbed at the top of an escalator at the Congress Heights Station early Sunday has died. A second stab victim, who was found close to the underground station kiosk, was treated at a hospital and later released. Meantime, a third person that may have suffered a medical problem during the stabbing incidents also was taken to the hospital.

Police are trying to determine the motive behind the stabbings, which appear to have been related. It is possible that physical struggles took place in different spots at the station before the victims were left alone. DC police were called to the scene shortly before 3 am.

Washington DC Premises Liability

The owners of public and private properties are supposed to make sure that there is adequate security on a premise so that no one ends up becoming the victim of a robbery, sexual assault, or murder. Depending on the premise, property owners may want to make sure that there is:

• Adequate lighting
• Entrances and exits with locks, alarm systems, video cameras, or security guards
• Surveillance cameras

Even if the property owner had nothing to do with causing the actual crime, the failure to act to prevent such incidents from happening—especially if similar crimes were recently been committed on the premise or in the surrounding area—can be grounds for a Washington DC inadequate security lawsuit. You also may be able to sue the assailant for Washington DC personal injury.

1 killed, 1 wounded in stabbing; men are found at D.C. Metro station, The Washington Post, May 31, 2010
Inadequate Security, Justia

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