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General Wrongful Death Case Settles For $26M, Fueling Concerns About Violence at Georgia Apartment Complexes

As seen in the April 12, 2023 edition of the Fulton County Daily Report...

A settlement has finally been reached in the yearslong battle over a Georgia apartment complex shooting that killed a young mother and her unborn child, plaintiffs counsel announced Tuesday.

The agreement was for the full policy limits of $26 million following several years of insurance coverage disputes that delayed litigation. The case had been approaching a specially set trial in February before it was settled. The names of the parties in the case remain confidential, however.

Originally filed in a Georgia superior court, the plaintiffs—family members of the victims—brought claims against the apartment complex for premises liability, negligent security, and public and private nuisance, which they argued violated the complex's own policies and procedures. The victims were killed by stray bullets fired in a separate shooting at the property.

Atlanta law firm Beasley Allen issued a press release following the settlement, calling it a "hard-fought, tragic case that should have never happened."

"The defendant apartment complex had a history of violent crime and was warned consistently about the dangers," Beasley Allen's Parker Miller said. "We absolutely were not settling this case unless the defendants did the right thing, which they ultimately did, but not before precious lives were lost and years of litigation ensued."

Miller and Houston Kessler, along with Greg Stokes and Neil Kopitsky of Stokes & Kopitsky, and Natanya Brooks, Meredith Watts, and Morgyn Graber of Brooks Injury Law represented the victims' family members in the case.

Over the course of the litigation, there were 16 witness depositions comprising 2,300 pages, according to Beasley Allen. Several of them described the defendant apartment complex as a dangerous area; it's location being "one of the worst in the area," according to the press release.

"The complex also received many calls reporting multiple gunshot events," the firm stated. "One witness compared the complex to a war environment, explaining that he and his family had to duck under the kitchen table during dinner when gunshots would ring out."

Plaintiffs also accused the complex of being fully aware of its history of violence but neglected to address it. Suggestions to hire a security guard or courtesy officer or install a fence around the perimeter were not taken.

"Unfortunately, this is what happens when little to no action is taken to address known violent activity," Brooks of Brooks Injury Law stated in the release. "The defendants had every opportunity to do something to make a difference in this community, but they chose another path. The victim's family was so brave throughout this entire process, given they had to bear this enormous loss while also fighting for justice at the same time. We are all so proud of them."

A problem that the firms raised with the management of apartment complexes is that while many are privately owned, they also receive some government funding, which may cause them to collect the funds but neglect the conditions of their communities.

"Owners and management became part of the problem by enabling such violent activity," Miller added.

Violence occurring at apartment complexes recently has been a growing concern for Georgians, raising questions about the duty of owners to mitigate potential safety risks. Some firms, such as Apolinsky & Associates in Atlanta, have become more vocal about what they say is negligent security at large multi-unit properties.

In 2016, the owner of Creekside Forest Apartment Homes in DeKalb County paid $3 million to settle a wrongful death suit brought by the family of a 15-year-old boy.

That year, the FBI's uniform crime report ranked Atlanta in the top 25 murder capitals in the nation, with data provided by 24/7 Wall Street.

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