Lawsuits After Jacksonville Mall Shooting

Gunfire broke out at a Jacksonville mall on August 26th, 2018. Known as the Jacksonville Complex and located along the banks of the St. John river, the mall is a popular place for all sorts of gatherings. However, it has also been the scene of violent outbreaks that have created problems with security in the mall and the surrounding area. The shooting fatally injured two people. Nine others had significant gunshot wounds that required hospitalization. One of the people who died was the shooter. The shootings took place during a video gaming competition that was being held at Chicago Pizza. People at the bar were part of many who were involved in the initial rounds of the Madden NFL 19 tournament and hoping to qualify for further play as the game progressed. Elijah Clayton and Taylor Robinson died at the hands of gunman David Katz of Baltimore. Ten lawsuits have been filed in the aftermath of the shooting. The lawsuits make many allegations suggesting that the parties involved in owning the property and managing it failed to protect people entering the mall and all those who were participating in the ongoing qualifying match and game. 

Multiple Allegations

The ten lawsuits have multiple allegations stemming from that day at the mall. Robertson’s widow has filed a wrongful death suit. The managers of the mall are being sued as is Entertainment Arts, the company that licenses the game being played at the time. Holly Robertson, widow of one of the victims, argues that there had been more than one violent event in the past in the mall. She further argues that such crimes have included issues that made the area unsafe and that officials did not do enough to ensure that attendees would be safe on site. Robertson is suing for wages lost as a result of her husband’s death as well as other damages. She is not alone. One competitor at the event, Douglas Thiel, has also filed a lawsuit. He argues along similar lines that gaming license officials and those at the mall did not take the necessary precautions to make sure there would no such issues. 

A History of Violence

Those who have filed lawsuits point out that the mall has been the site of violence in the past. In August 2012, another bar in the mall was the scene of an act of violence that ended in one patron running over another patron and killing them. In 2017, there was another shooting that ultimately culminated in the death of a teen. This event was widely seen across many media. The state’s governor and one senator commented on the event and offered help. Shooter David Katz, upset at a loss the previous day, killed two of his rivals at the site. In the process, he hurt ten people and then killed himself before the evening was over. Dozens of participants fled the scene in horror. A number suffered gun injuries as a result. 

The First Suits

The first lawsuit in the aftermath of the shooting began four days later. Jacob Mitich named multiple people and companies in his lawsuit including Cliff Comastro who owns Chicago Pizza and the entertainment company. He was wounded during the initial shooting and twice hit by the gunfire at the site yet survived. His lawsuit, along with several others who filed, alleges that the managers of the site did not do enough to make sure that everyone participating was safe. Such lawsuits also allege that officials failed to notify the Jacksonville sheriff’s office in advance about the competition in question. Officials from the sheriff’s office have stated that, had they known about the competition, they would have placed at least two officers at the site in order to make sure that all security measures were upheld. The others filing lawsuits against the companies and people involved are Denis Alton, Christopher McFarland, Christian Lemenzo, Darren Hojjati, Sandro Aguayo, Vincent Young and Kiana Chambers. All of the lawsuits have been filed by the law offices of Morgan and Morgan attorneys. 

In The Immediate Aftermath

Right after the fire, city officials reacted by citing Chicago Pizza for operating a game room without proper authorization. Company officials stated that the place did not have a floor plan approved by the city nor did they have the necessary permits to hold the tournament under city laws. City officials cited additional problems including problems such as wiring and the fact that game consoles were placed in a manner that blocked off exits that were to be used in the event of a fire. Chicago Pizza officials opened again six weeks after the shooting. The lawsuits are expected to make their way through the court and may not be resolved for some time.