Negligent Security Seminar | March 2015

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Negligent Security

Negligent security cases involve someone who has been injured due to a violent or sexual crime. The case may be brought against the owner or manager of the premises or business where the crime took place as well as the criminal. Those who are in control of a property or location are most often defendants in cases like these. A business is in a much better position to know of the dangers of a particular property than the customer or visitor. They are also in a better position to take reasonable steps to prevent the crime and protect people.

The field of negligent premises security includes recovery for injuries caused by criminal assaults, rapes, sexual assaults, robberies and attacks due to inadequate premises security, inadequate lighting, improper premises or building design, and other inadequate conditions in commercial and residential premises. These frequently occur at hotels and motels, malls, shopping centers, restaurants, apartment complexes, schools, stores, amusement parks, parking garages, gas stations/mini marts, resorts, airports, churches and office buildings.

John Elliott Leighton, founding partner of Leighton Law, is a nationally recognized expert in the field of violent crime and negligent security litigation. Having litigated and tried negligent premises security cases for over 30 years, Mr. Leighton lectures and teaches trial lawyers throughout the country on techniques in handling these cases. He is a published author in this field, having authored numerous articles published in Trial magazine as well as other journals. He is the author of Litigating Premises Security Cases (West Publishing), a two-volume textbook used by trial lawyers across the country on how to investigate, handle, litigate and try inadequate premises security cases. It is the most comprehensive book in the field and widely used in this field of law.

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Mr. Leighton’s expertise in this field has been recognized by his peers. John Leighton is recognized as one of the best negligent security lawyers in Florida, and is often hired by lawyers around the country to help them with their cases. Besides being selected for inclusion in The Best Lawyers in America, he has been elected as a Florida SuperLawyer each year (and in the top 100 Florida SuperLawyers for 10 years), listed as a “Top Lawyer” in the South Florida Legal Guide (2003-2017), and selected for the “Florida Legal Elite Top Lawyers in Florida” by Florida Trend magazine (2006-2009, 2012-2017). He was recently the recipient of the “Mover & Shaker” award from Business Leader magazine and has been featured on the cover of Attorney at Law magazine as “Attorney of the Month.” He has been invited into “America’s Top 100 Attorneys” and selected as “Orlando Legal Elite” by Orlando Style magazine.

Since 1996 Mr. Leighton has served as Chairman of the Inadequate Security Litigation Group of the Association of Trial Lawyers of America (ATLA)/American Association for Justice (AAJ). He is past Chairman of the Association’s Motor Vehicle, Highway and Premises Liability Section and lectures internationally on security and crime victim litigation to lawyers, law enforcement, victim advocates and the general public.

A charter member of the National Crime Victim Bar Association (NCVBA), Mr. Leighton serves on the Association’s Advisory Board. In 2007 he was presented the “Advocate of Justice Award” in recognition of his commitment and success in representing victims of crime in civil cases.

In 2009 Mr. Leighton chaired the Inadequate Security Education Program for the American Association for Justice and hosted crime victim advocate Fred Goldman as the keynote speaker. Mr. Goldman’s son Ron was a victim of O.J. Simpson.  The Goldman family have become outspoken advocates for crime victim rights throughout the country.

Mr. Leighton’s expertise in representing crime victims has resulted in his being sought after to handle these cases in many states. In addition to routinely litigating and trying premises security cases throughout Florida, he has litigated these cases in Wisconsin, Indiana, Georgia, and Texas in state and federal courts.

A Long History of Successful Negligent Security Cases

Mr. Leighton has won numerous verdicts and settlements in cases arising from crime at malls, hotels, gas stations, restaurants, convenience stores, schools, shopping centers, apartments, office buildings, cruise ships, and businesses. He has been brought in to try security cases by attorneys all over the country.  He has successfully handled security cases in Wisconsin, Indiana, Georgia, Texas and Florida.

Recently Mr. Leighton won a $24.3 million verdict on behalf of the family of an off duty police officer who was shot and killed at a robbery at an ATM at night. The case of Estate of Gordon v. Terry, et al. involved issues of inadequate security and lighting. An Orlando jury awarded the family over $24 million. The case is a testament to Officer Al Gordon, who spent his career protecting the community, but was taken from us senselessly and prematurely.

John Leighton represented the crime victim in the landmark case of Jeffery v. Publix. Tim Jeffery was working on a sprinkler system at a shopping center. He heard an elderly woman scream; when he looked over he saw a man grabbing her purse. Tim chased the robber, who quickly got into a waiting pickup truck. Tim chased after the truck, which became stuck behind cars in the parking lot. He pounded on the tinted window and demanded the return of the purse. The robber fired a shot through the window, striking Tim in the chest and nearly killing him. Tim made an excellent recovery, but was left with scarring and some vascular damage to his arm. Mr. Leighton filed suit based on the “rescue doctrine” for failure to have adequate security. The case against the shopping center landlord was settled for $125,000 and went to trial against the supermarket where the shooting took place (and where the woman had been shopping). Mr. Leighton obtained a verdict of $1,510,000 against supermarket. This was the first known instance where recovery was obtained in a negligent security case based on the “rescue doctrine.” Mr. Leighton’s success in this trial was recognized by being the featured case in an entire chapter of the book Persuasive Jury Communication: Case Studies From Successful Trials, Chapter 10: “Persuasion in a Premises Security Case” (Shepard’s/McGraw-Hill, 1995). Leighton’s skills were showcased in the chapter, which tracked the trial from beginning to end.

Colleges, Universities and Schools

In another inadequate security case, Mr. Leighton represented the family of a student at a major university who was killed in his on campus apartment by the former boyfriend of a girl he was seeing. Mr. Leighton’s investigation revealed that the university had inadequate security, which resulted in a $1,500,000 recovery. Mr. Leighton then represented another student who was victimized in another attack. In that case, a young foreign student was attending a vocational school when he was shot and paralyzed during an attempted carjacking at the dormitory. Mr. Leighton won a $3,250,000 settlement on his behalf. In another college incident, Leighton obtained a confidential settlement for a college student who was shot in the parking lot of an on-campus facility during a party. The shooter, never apprehended, apparently left the party in a rage and drove back and fired into the crowd. The facility failed to have proper security and also violated laws concerning underage drinking.

Mr. Leighton and the firm have been very active in representing children who have suffered physical and sexual abuse at the hands of others. Mr. Leighton has represented many children who have been abused while in daycare or at school. In a recent case, Mr. Leighton obtained a $675,000 recovery for a 5 year-old boy who was sexually abused by a 7 year-old boy who was allowed to play unsupervised with the younger child in a day care facility.

Convenience Stores and Gas Stations

Many times these crimes occur at gas stations and convenience stores.  Leighton Law has recovered for the families of those who have been shot and killed during robberies at gas stations, including $1,875,000 for a shooting death.  In another case, Mr. Leighton won a substantial recovery for the parents of a young man shot and killed at a convenience store.

In another case, Mr. Leighton won a jury verdict for a man shot and killed by men who robbed a mini mart and attempted to flee.  Leighton has also represented employees of convenience stores who have been shot, including one who intervened in a hold up at the gas pump and was himself shot and killed by the robber.  In another case, Mr. Leighton represented a convenience store clerk who was shot in the head during a robbery and survived.  He was able to recover substantial damages to help this client. He has also obtained successful settlements on behalf of families whose children were shot and killed at gas station pumps.

ATMs and Banks

Mr. Leighton’s success in security cases extends to ATMs and banks, which are by their nature crime magnets.  In one case, Mr. Leighton won a $3 million recovery for a young man shot at an ATM.  In another, he won a substantial settlement as to one defendant and a $24 million verdict as to two additional parties for an ATM shooting death.  Leighton has also represented a bank officer who was shot during a botched robbery attempt.,  He was actually shot by the bank’s own security guard.

Malls and Shopping Centers

One of the most common locations for violent crime is at malls and shopping centers.  Mr. Leighton has won verdicts and settlements against these types of premises for their negligent failure to provide reasonable security.  In the late 1980s, Leighton recovered a substantial settlement for a woman who was stabbed inside a boutique at a small shopping center in Key West.  He has also won verdicts for a mall employee robbed and injured while walking to her car, a shopper beaten in a purse snatch at a major regional mall, and a groundskeeper shot while coming to the aid of a robbery victim.  Leighton has also represented a series of women who were raped at factory outlet malls in several states, running from Wisconsin to Georgia.  The criminals in those cases took advantage of the fact that the outlet stores were understaffed and security was nonexistent during the daytime hours.  Leighton litigated and proved that these outlet malls failed to provide reasonable security for employees and visitors.

John Leighton continues to litigate and try violent crime cases on behalf of plaintiffs. He also regularly authors articles and books, and teaches other lawyers throughout the country on ways to represent crime victims.  He is committed to helping victims of crime by serving on the Advisory Board of the National Crime Victim Bar Association and lecturing to crime victim advocates as well as fellow trial lawyers.

Some of Mr. Leighton’s publications in the field of inadequate premises security and violent crime litigation include the following:

•J. Leighton, Litigating Premises Security Cases, Vol. 1 and 2, (West Publishing, 2006; supplemented yearly) [Two volume treatise on premises security litigation]

Mr. Leighton’s many lectures and speeches in this field include the following:

  • “Heating Up! Negligent Security: People+Premises+Data,” Daily Business Review/Leighton Lecture Series, Miami, Florida, March 2015.
  • “Like Flies To Honey: Crime Management and the Dangers of ATMs, Convenience Stores and Other High Risk Retail Premises,” American Association for Justice Annual Convention, Baltimore, MD, July 2014.
  • “Sex, Drugs & Violence: Inadequate Premises Security Litigation in Florida,” Daily Business Review/Leighton Lecture Series, November 2013.
  • “Jury Selection in Premises Security Cases,” American Association for Justice Annual Convention, San Francisco, CA, July 2013
  • “Selecting and Investigating Premises Liability Cases,” American Association for Justice Winter Convention, Miami Beach, FL, F.ebruary 2013.
  • “Why Can`t We Be Friends? Attacking The Defense Security Expert,” American Association for Justice Annual Convention, Chicago, IL, July 2012.
  • “Reducing Institutional Sexual Abuse Through Litigation,” Melvin M. Belli Society Annual Seminar, Chicago, IL, July 2012.
  • “Evaluating, Assessing and Litigating Premises Security Cases,” American Association for Justice, Annual Convention, New York, NY, July 2011.
  • “$24 million verdict: Trial of ATM Shooting Case,” Melvin M. Belli Society Annual Seminar, New York, NY, July 2011.
  • “Terrorism and Civil Actions,” National Crime Victim Bar Association National Conference, Washington, DC, June 2011.
  • “Terrorism as an Inadequate Security Case,” American Association for Justice Annual Convention, Vancouver, Canada, July 2010.
  • “Dealing With The Violent Criminal in Civil Cases, Annual Melvin Belli Seminar, Vancouver, Canada, July 2010.
  • “Sex, Drugs & Violence: Inadequate Premises Security Litigation in Florida,” Daily Business Review Seminar, Miami, Florida, October 2009.
  • “Presenting Tragic Violence at Trial: Closing Argument in Security and Violent Crime Cases,” National Crime Victim Bar Association, 2008 National Conference, Chicago, IL, October 2008.
  • “Sex, Drugs & Violence; What You Need to Know about Violent Crime Cases and Negligent Premises Security Litigation,” Florida Facilities Managers Association, Annual Meeting, Palm Beach, FL, June 2008.
  • “Standing Up for a Fair Jury: Voir Dire in Security Cases,” American Association for Justice, Annual Convention, Chicago, IL, July 2007.
  • “Picking Civil Juries for Crime Victims,” National Crime Victim Bar Association Annual Conference, Washington, DC, June 2007.
  • “Inadequate Security Litigation,” New Jersey Trial Lawyers Association, Boardwalk Seminar, Atlantic City, NJ, April 2007.
  • Keynote Speaker, National Crime Victims` Rights Week, “Victims` Rights Conference,” State Attorney`s Office – Eleventh Judicial Circuit, Miami, FL April 2007.
  • “Insurance Issues in Inadequate Premises Security Cases,” Association of Trial Lawyers of America, Annual Convention, Seattle, WA, July 2006.
  • “Civil Remedies for Criminal Acts,” National Center for Victims of Crime, Victim Advocate Training Program, Fort Lauderdale, FL, January 2006.
  • “Comparing “Fault” – Current Status of Efforts to Include Perpetrators on Verdict Forms; Restatement Approach; Legislation; Case Law; Comparison to Crashworthiness Doctrine,” Association of Trial Lawyers of America, Annual Convention, Toronto, Canada, July 2005.

John Leighton began the Leighton Lecture Series on negligent security litigation with the inaugural “Sex, Drugs & Violence” seminar in 2009. Since then the annual seminar in Miami and Orlando has attracted attendees from throughout Florida and across the country, and has included lawyers, judges, adjusters, developers, hospitality industry, law enforcement, prosecutors and victim advocates. Some of the events are highlighted on the gallery to the right and can be found in the “Speeches” tab in our Media Center.

Mr. Leighton’s lectures and teaching on negligent security and the representation of violent crime victims has spanned the continent. He continues to teach, publish and advocate on behalf of crime victims.

For a more complete list of Mr. Leighton’s speeches and publications, go to our Attorney Profile section. Click here for examples of some results from our previous pending negligent security cases.

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 as each case is unique. By clicking on Verdicts and Settlements you are acknowledging that every case is different and each case 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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John Leighton appears on CNN to comment on proposed parasailing safety regulations.

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John Leighton appears on NBC's "Today" show as part of his representation of the family of Amber May White, who was killed in a parasailing tragedy.

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John Leighton is featured on the cover of Attorney At Law magazine as its "Attorney of the Month".

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John Leighton's 2 volume book Litigating Premises Security Cases.

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