Caroselli, Beachler & Coleman, L.L.C.

Customer’s death blamed on Allegheny County shop’s negligence

Owners of Allegheny County stores and restaurants invite customers to visit, shop and buy. As a property owner or leasee, the business promises to provide a reasonable level of security for the invited party. The business owner is responsible for customer safety, including prevention of accidents and violence.

The parents of a 24-year-old Brookline shooting victim have filed a premises liability claim against Oakland's Original Hot Dog Shop. The complaint alleges that the defendant didn't do enough to prevent the plaintiffs' son, a customer, from being killed outside the restaurant. The young man died after he was shot in the back, while running from an early-morning fight between two groups of friends.

The 23-year-old man who pulled the trigger was recently convicted on an involuntary manslaughter charge, punishable by a 10- to 20-year prison term. Sentencing is set for July. The civil lawsuit was filed in February, six months after the customer's death.

The restaurant's attorneys argued that the business owners should not be blamed for the death, since the killing occurred off the property. The groups' altercation happened on a public sidewalk outside the restaurant around 3:30 a.m. The victim was shot while crossing the street.

The lawsuit stated that the restaurant was aware security was an issue. Customers at the hot dog shop were charged an extra 15 percent after 11 p.m., so the restaurant could add an off-duty officer to the security staff. Reports didn't say whether restaurant security employees were working the night the customer was killed or intervened in the dispute outside the business.

Property owners must anticipate possible dangerous conditions. Most business people have the foresight to mop up a spill on a wet walkway before someone gets hurt. Businesses in locations with known violent crime problems add extra lighting in parking lots, install surveillance cameras and hire security personnel, as a precaution against possible customer harm and liability claims.

Source: Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, "Original Hot Dog Shop argues against liability in Oakland slaying" Adam Brandolp, Apr. 08, 2014

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