This case is a great result for the family of a man killed at a Motel 6 in Georgia. Many lawyers shy away from these cases now due to changes in the law relating to apportionment of fault and damages. This case shows that hotels, apartment complexes and other businesses can still be held liable for significant damages in cases where crime victims can present a strong case that the business does not have adequate security.
The family of a man killed during an attempted robbery of the Motel 6 where he was staying as a guest will receive $5.1 Million from the hotel chain and its parent company after a Fulton County jury reached its verdict this month.
Brandon Todd, a 27-year-old man from Newnan, Ga., was killed in the November 2007 shooting at a Motel 6 in Albany. The jury found that a lack of adequate security was partially to blame for Todd’s death.
Todd died from wounds sustained from gunfire he sustained when he was accosted in his room by one of two teenagers who were attempting to rob the motel.
17-year-old Jimmy Teemer, one of the two assailants, died at the crime scene. Lyndon B. Johnson Jr., the second assailant who is now 23, is current serving a life sentence along with a third man, Patrick Jackson, who was a guest at the Motel 6 that night and was said to have provided the gun to Teemer.
The verdict, handed down on May 16, awarded $6 million in damages to the family, to be allocated amongst the defendants based on liability. Johnson, Jackson, and Teemer were each held to be 5 percent liable, with 85 percent of the award to be paid by the Motel 6 chain and Accor North America Inc., the chain’s parent company.
The plaintiffs had offered a $3 million settlement before trial, which the defendant’s rejected before making their $1.5 million counteroffer, which the plaintiffs rejected. Plaintiff’s attorneys are now seeking attorneys fees from the defendants based on Georgia’s offer of judgment statute, which allows the prevailing party to seek attorneys fees if the ultimate award is at least 125 percent of the settlement offer.
The lead attorney for the plaintiffs in the case, Andrew Rogers, spoke about the challenges of the trial, including motivating the jury to return a large award where the victim was not married and had no children. He had to convince the jury of Todd’s character during his life and that his clients were quality people who deserved compensation for their loss.
Rogers said that the events of that night were not the first problems to have occurred at the motel. The hotel property and the surrounding area had seen several holdups in just the few months prior to the murder, including an incident just three nights before that allegedly involved Jackson and another six weeks prior where Teemer was an alleged participant.
Earl “Billy” Gunn, lead defense attorney, said that the motel’s premises were safe. He said that the manager was not concerned about living there or walking around at night. Gunn chided the judge for his instructions to the jury, which he claimed were intended to convince the jury to apportion damages so that the plaintiffs would see the most money, rather than based on the actual degree of fault. “To place just 5 percent of the blame on the killer is crazy,” he said, adding that his team was planning to appeal.
Tom is a trial and appellate lawyer focusing on criminal defense and civil trials. Tom is the author of our firm’s “The Federal Docket” and a contributor to Mercer Law Review’s Annual Survey in the areas of federal law. Tom was named a “Top 40 Under 40” lawyer by The National Trial Lawyers, and is a recognized expert in federal sentencing law. He graduated with honors from the University of Georgia Law School where he served as a research assistant to the faculty in the areas of constitutional law and civil rights litigation. Read Tom’s reviews on AVVO. Follow Tom on Linkedin.