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Negligent Security Seminar | March 2015

Florida personal injury lawyers



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    $300,000 verdict in federal court – sexual assault of child inside K-Mart store (Miami Dade County)

    Child sexual abuse is something that affects every community.  It is every parent’s worst nightmare. It is something that continues unless reasonable steps are taken to stop it.

    John Elliott Leighton represented a young child who was sexually assaulted inside a K-Mart big box store while her mother shopped.  The young child had wandered away from her mother and was approached by a man who said he worked for the store. The man was not an employee at all.  He did,however, take the girl to an employee-only area of the store where he had privacy.  Employees and supervisors there did not ask the man why he was there. Despite having no uniform and not being an employee, he was allowed unfettered access to the back of the store. There he proceeded to sexually assault this young girl.

    The sexual predator was never apprehended.

    Mr. Leighton tried the case before a federal court jury and obtained a $300,000 verdict despite the jury attributing 90% of the fault to the child’s mother. Evidence showed that the mother allowed her young child to walk off alone in the store for half an hour. At the time, the law allowed a jury to apportion fault to a non-party, which in this case reduced the child’s recovery by 90%.  Sun Bank v. KMart, SD Fla. 1995. The true verdict was $3 million, but it was reduced by the jury’s allocation of 90% fault on the part of the mother.

    The law in Florida was later clarified that the fault of a non-party cannot be used against a victim of a crime, but that came several years after the trial.  In the meantime, it is the hope that this verdict and what was uncovered by Mr. Leighton will change corporate policies at K-Mart, perhaps preventing a similar sexual assault on another child.

    Leighton Panoff Law’s commitment to victims of sexual abuse continues to this day.  As President of the National Crime Victim Bar Association, Mr. Leighton advocates for survivors of childhood sexual assault.  More states are opening windows for victims whose claims would be otherwise extinguished by an expired statute of limitations.  We know that most victims of child sex abuse waits years – often decades – before reporting what happened.  The need for a road to justice has never been greater.


    Disclaimer: The information about past verdicts and settlements of the firm’s cases are based on the unique facts of each case. These amounts reflect the gross recovery in each case (before attorneys fees, expenses and medical costs are deducted). Although these results were obtained by our firm, they may not indicate the success or value of any other case. By clicking on Verdicts and Settlements you are acknowledging that each case is unique and must be evaluated on its own merits. The information contained here has not been reviewed or approved by The Florida Bar.


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