An attorney representing survivors and family members of people injured or killed in the terrorist attack against the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida last year has filed a lawsuit against the perpetrator’s employer and wife.
Attorney Antonio Romanucci claims that security company G4S bears liability for the attack because they allowed their employee, terrorist Omar Mateen, to carry a gun for his job, even though they “knew” he was “mentally unstable”.
“Mateen gave out so many warnings that someone should have reined this guy in,” Romanucci said in an interview. “They should have said, ‘You are not stable. You shouldn’t have a weapon.'”
While working as a security guard at the St. Lucie County Courthouse in 2013, the FBI investigated Mateen after he told co-workers that he personally knew people who were terrorists and mass shooters. He claimed that the tale was made up to get his co-workers to stop teasing him about being Muslim; the FBI determined he was not a threat.
For her part, Noor Salman, the attacker’s wife, was included in the suit because she allegedly knew that her husband was going to carry out a terrorist attack against the popular LGBT nightclub, and not only failed to try to stop him, but instead accompanied Mateen while he was casing locations for his attack.
Salman is currently in jail awaiting trial in federal court on charges of aiding and abetting and obstruction of justice.
For that reason, the case against her will likely be straightforward (and, indeed, can be pursued on the cheap, as it were, since the federal prosecutor is going to be gathering a mess of evidence anyway.) If los federales’ case is solid, the plaintiffs will be solid.
Speaking as a jaded former litigator, however, it doesn’t sound like Salman is rolling in cash, so a win against her and five dollars gets you a delicious frozen mocha frappe at the local coffee shop. G4S, on the other hand, is a transnational corporation headquartered in the United Kingdom, which makes them a rather juicy target for a plaintiff’s lawyer operating on contingency.
The case against G4S isn’t straightforward, though. The plaintiffs will have to prove that G4S had a duty to do something, failed to do it, and therefore bears some responsibility for the subsequent attack.
A duty to do what, though?
I expect the eDiscovery mills will be churning at G4S soon to dig up emails, performance evaluations, and anything else related to Mateen’s performance and behavior.
If the only thing the plaintiffs have is the fact that the FBI looked into Mateen a few years back…well, you’re expecting a heck of a lot to ask a jury to find a company liable for an attack that took place off company property, outside of company time, using his own equipment, especially when the Fibbies gave him a clean bill of health when they took a closer look at him. He was just talking a little smack to some jerks at work. Right?
The Plaintiffs allege, however, that there’s more to it than just that, claiming that G4S has a history of falsifying psych evaluations of its employees, and further, that State of Florida reviewed and relied upon the company’s evaluation of Mateen for its background check when he purchased the firearms used in the attack – a 9mm GLOCK 17, and a .223 caliber Sig Sauer MCX.
The best chance they have for a serious recovery is in the suit against G4S, of course.
An even more solid case of negligence might exist against the owners of Pulse nightclub itself, whose owners clearly failed to provide adequate security even though the nightclub’s patrons were all required by Florida law to be disarmed before entering.
(The Florida legislators who drafted the law — Title XLVI Chapter 790.06 — that bars “any person [from] openly carry[ing] a handgun or carry[ing] a concealed weapon or firearm into any portion of an establishment licensed to dispense alcoholic beverages for consumption on the premises….” ought to bear responsibility, too.)
So far, the Plaintiff’s bar has been reluctant to take up Prof. Glenn Reynolds’ suggestion that property owners be held liable for injuries to victims disarmed by a gun free zone policy.
Such a claim here might be a little tricky because the gun free zone was created by law, but surely the existence of such a law might affect the duty to provide a safe environment by the owner of a nightclub who knows his clientele are legally required to disarm before entering?
Perhaps even more so when the owner goes out to attract a clientele whose lifestyle and sexual preferences (Top 10 Orlando described it as a “justifiably popular” “favorite for the Orlando gay crowd’ in 2012,) are abhorred and despised by certain elements, exemplified by an Islamic extremists by Omar Mateen.
According to the Orlando Sentinel, a fund of approximately $30,000,000 from a fund set up by the city of Orlando was disbursed to survivors and family members last fall. An additional disbursement is set to take place next month, ranging from at least $16,000 for families of those killed, to $1,150 for those who were present but physically unharmed.