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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.

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  1. We have homeless veterans on our streets. 22 veterans kill themselves everyday. The VA makes them wait months, if they will see them at all. Yet someone who was at the Pulse nightclub, uninjured mind you, gets paid at least $1,150.00 (not counting GoFundYourself, etc.) This is what is wrong with our country. This is an example of a broken society that has truly lost it’s priotities. I am in no way saying the club attendees deserved what happened to them just for being at a club. It just shows what many people find worthy of throwing money and attention at.

  2. As a relatively jaded litigator with a tremendous amount of experience as an insurance defense attorney, any case against the Pulse is skating on thin ice. As Johannes points out, there is a state law disarming patrons–as there are in most states as to establishments where alcohol is served. Second, premises liability is in almost all circumstances is predicated on “notice,” i.e., that the property owner/occupant was on notice of a dangerous and defective condition and failed to cure it. Absent evidence of repeat violent gun attacks in or outside the Pulse, or actual threats against the patrons of this establishment by the shooter (which as far as IO know do not exist) there is no notice on which to predicate a claim of liability. Further, Plaintiffs will face that almost impossible burden of overcoming the hurdle of demonstrating that the security was “inadequate,” when there was an armed police officer at the door. Was the owner “on notice” that this armed officer would fall back rather than engage the shooter, especially when the officer was outgunned? And how much responsibility for the killings rests with the Orlando Police (who are almost certainly immune from liability) because they failed to breach for three hours, during which many were killed?

    I agree that the case against the shooter’s employer is incredibly weak. I sincerely doubt that the State, in running a background check, in any way relied upon his employer’s evaluation. The fact is that he had a clean record and that there were no grounds to deny him the purchase. That breaks the chain of causation between his work as a security guard and the shooting at the Pulse with his personal weapons.

    • All true, Mark N., and yet these days the most successful personal injury attorneys are paper hangers, suing everyone and anyone in sight.

      Check out how much Anheuser-Busch was forced to pay to settle the Station Night Club Fire litigation for no activity on its part except a sponsorship.

      A dead body means cash. A mountain of dead bodies means a mountain of cash.

      • “Check out how much Anheuser-Busch was forced to pay to settle the Station Night Club Fire litigation for no activity on its part except a sponsorship.”

        Holy crap, you weren’t kidding on that one.

        (Just the haul from Anheuser-Busch and Clear Channel was over 40 *million*.)

        Here’s a *partial* list of the lawsuits:

        Does anyone know who collected (surviving patrons?) and how much after attorney fees the payout was?

      • Ralph makes an excellent point and dozens of companies that had nothing to do with the fire were sued and forced to pay millions.

    • The thing that is being skipped over here is the “nuisance factor”. Attorneys in these sorts of lawsuits, who know how slim the chances of an actual win in court might be, are counting on the deep pocket defendants to cough up big bucks in a settlement deal just so they do not have to support a half-dozen attorneys for a few years while getting their corporate identity dragged through the media every time the subject comes up.

      Settlements may not be as large as the amount sued for, but they come at a lot less expense for overhead and time. Plenty of lawyers reputations have been made and Benzes paid for by such outcomes.

    • Didn’t the club have all the doors chained except the main entrance? I know I heard that; I just don’t know if it was true.

      If that is the case, the victims might have a case against the club. I can’t imagine there aren’t laws in Orlando about fire exits. The problem with such a case is that perceived harm is fire not gun fire. I’m not a personal injury attorney, so I’m trying to remember stuff from the 1st year of school and bar prep.

  3. Yeah I agree this suit is tenuous at best. Blaming the security company for not vetting Omer after he passed all kinds of BS…it almost sounds Islamaphobic(LOL). I wonder how many left-wing happy boys want no limits on Moose-lim infil…er immigration?!? Anyone? Tsarnaev’s?

    • former colleagues of mateen alledgedly complained to the companymanagement that mateen was making threats against them. so the company might have some blame in this case.

  4. “…They should have said, ‘You are not stable. You shouldn’t have a weapon.'”

    They liiiiike…the FBI? Are you suing them too? Everyone knows what would have happened to the employer if they tried to to get him fired over mental instability. They’d’ve been sued over descrimination.

    • Florida is a right to work state. While firing the twit for choosing/”practicing” a barbaric terrorist “religion” might be illegal, G4S certainly could have “found” some other reason to fire him.

  5. Welcome to the world of Shyster attorneys. A realm, In most cases that are purely “unregulated”. If its for personal injury, say against an employer. They can hang you out to dry in most states. Even be “bought” out by the opposing side to “throw” your case. In this instance, being used for ambulance chasing, to set constitutional precedence, for political propaganda and manipulation to help further eliminate the Bill of Rights based on the actions of another, etc…The lawyer “Shark Tank” is what needs to be ” regulated” under todays standards…And lawyer’s should be held accountable for any misleading actions.

    • Lawyers are regulated, and most behave themselves. But being regulated and being ethical are two different things. Very unethical lawyers get suspended and disbarred. Some even go to jail.

      Further, from the plaintiff’s bar perspective, when they have a bad hurt client (often), the “game” is to find some manner of getting their clients compensation for their injuries, especially when the insurance is woefully inadequate to get anywhere near the value of the case. For example, every or most every state has a mandatory auto liability insurance with minimum coverages set by law. In California, those limits are $15,000 per person, $30,000 per accident. It is not hard to imagine that $15,000 is not enough to compensate for a loss of life in an auto accident, especially where the plaintiff driver is not at fault. So the plaintiff’s bar looks for other sources to pay the piper.

      Sometimes they win, often they lose, or take what they can get, especially where the defendant has little if anything in the way of assets to pay a judgment in excess of policy limits, and/or where the cost of a obtaining a pay day far exceeds the cost of suit. You can’t make a case worth more by throwing money into prosecuting it, and I have seen many plaintiff’s attorney’s lose their shirts in cases where the judgment is less than the amount of money the attorney has spent on experts and on trial. Being a plaintiff’s attorney is a risky business.

      And yes, a lot of these cases result in substantial settlements, because big corporations are risk averse and do not want to take their chances with a jury in a case involving really bad injuries or deaths. Then again, most cases settle prior to trial; there are simply not enough judges or juries to try them all, and this is true in both the civil as well as the criminal cases.

  6. Not a big fan of litigation in general, but news reports stated GS4 employees had previously complained to the company about Mateen making threats to them, and the company supposedly swept it under the rugto avoid a “discrimination” lawsuit.

    I hope the plaintiffs get huuuuuge settlement from the employer, and from the wife even though she won’t be able to pay.

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