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Property Manager Ignores Complaint About Resident Who Savagely Beat Neighbor to Death

The property manager of a Florida mobile home park had been warned. A tenant was causing problems within the park and had the potential for violence. The assailant had previously threatened to kill his neighbor, Jerome, the next time he saw him. The park had no protocol to address problem tenants, so the manager negligently chose not to deal with the threat. Four hours after the most recent complaint was made, the rageful tenant violently beat his neighbor to death in a horrific scene that several residents of the park witnessed.

Jerome was severely beaten for approximately 45 minutes by his neighbor. During the attacker’s fit of rage, other tenants approached the scene to help, and cars driving past pulled over to take photos of the incident while calling the police. However, by the time the police arrived at the scene, it was too late. The victim had died because of the violent act.

Jerome’s wife contacted Joseph Kopacz of Morgan & Morgan about three days after the incident. Joe began by taking depositions of residents in the park and the property manager. He also hired a security expert. Joe learned from his research and interviews that the owner of the mobile home park also owned about 25 other parks in Florida. None of them had policies or procedures to address troublesome residents. Joe realized that the violent encounter could have been avoided had the park been more diligent about protecting its residents.

In mediation, the Defense refused a financial settlement for Jerome’s wife. They also threw up two significant obstacles. First, they pointed out that the victim had a drinking problem. While he was a pastor and did not have a history of violence, Jerome struggled with alcoholism, and he had a blood alcohol level four times the legal limit on the day of the fatal incident. Second, the Defense brought up that the victim was separated from his wife, whom he had allegedly run over with his car earlier on the day of his death.

Joe knew that he needed to prove the park was liable for the victim’s death because they did not act when warned about potential violence. The troublesome tenant had a history of creating problems, most of which the property manager and owner largely ignored when reported. Joe also wanted potential jurors to visualize the victim’s story and the severity of the beating. He reached out to DK Global for a demonstrative.

Joe and DK Global worked together to take information from the 911 call, depositions, photos, and other evidence to create a timeline of events. The sequence showed how the mobile home park had acted negligently in their refusal to deal with the problem tenant, which ultimately led to the victim’s death. The animation opened with a bird’s eye view of the park and identified the property manager, noting that the manager did not conduct criminal background checks on residents. Then, it provided a reenactment of the savage attack, showing the aggressor resident beating and kicking Jerome. An audio recording of the 911 calls placed by passersby was also included with details about the scene. The visual concluded with an illustration of the victim’s body and the gruesome injuries he sustained: fractured ribs and sternum, subgaleal and intra-abdominal bleeding, splenic lacerations, blood in the lungs and chest cavity, and soft-tissue bleeding. A clock ticked throughout the animation, illustrating how long the victim had suffered before passing — 2 hours and 4 minutes.

The animation was incredibly compelling in showing the horrifying violence against the victim, proving negligence against the mobile home park. The Defense knew the presentation would be a powerful tool if presented to a jury. Ultimately, the case was settled in mediation for $2,000,000 in favor of the victim’s family.

Joseph Kopacz of Morgan & Morgan has been practicing law since 2007, specializing in personal injury, wrongful death, traumatic brain and head injury, and premises liability cases. He began his career by defending several large insurance companies. However, Joe now applies his knowledge and experience toward clients who have suffered as a result of someone else’s negligence. He is a member of the Florida Bar Association and the First, Second, Fourth, and Fifth District Court of Appeals.

"You can only say so much with words. Any case can benefit from the jury actually seeing the event occur."
Joseph Kopacz - Morgan & Morgan
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