Helping Crime Victims Pursue Civil Justice

The NCVBA provides technical support to attorneys representing crime victims in civil actions, refers crime victims to lawyers in their local area, and works to increase general awareness about the availability of civil remedies for victims of crime.

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Philip Kerlec v. E-Z Serve Convenience Stores, Inc.
97-2577, U.S.D.C.E.D.La., LA, 04/22/1999
Category Victim v. Third Party 
Topic Premises, General 
Filename Failure of Security 
Crime Assault; Robbery; Shooting 
Location Convenience Store 
Prevailing Party Plaintiff 
Other Parties E-Z Serve Convenience Stores, Inc 

Statement of Facts: In September 1996, the plaintiff, Philip Kerlec, was robbed and shot in the back in the parking lot of an E-Z Serve convenience store in LaPlace, Louisiana. The plaintiff suffered injuries to his lungs and spleen, resulting in the removal of his spleen. He was hospitalized for eight days, and then re-hospitalized for eight days for a second surgery on a hernia. He suffers from severe PTSD. Despite E-Z Serve's internal security policy requiring that the store have floodlights on each side and in the back of the store, there was only one dim bulb on the side of the store by the parking lot, where Kerlec was robbed, and no lights in the back of the store, where Kerlec was shot. E-Z Serve employees testified that they had received no training in E-Z Serve's "Robbery Deterrence Program," but were required to sign forms attesting that they did have such training in order to be hired. The plaintiff sued E-Z Serve for breach of an assumed duty to provide adequate lighting to deter crime and to train employees adequately to deter robberies. E-Z Serve third-partied the "unknown assailants" and asserted that it owed no duty to the plaintiff to protect him from the third party assault. E-Z Serve argued that the only duty that can be assumed is to provide a security guard. The plaintiff argued, and the court and jury agreed, that other safety and security duties may be assumed, including lighting and training. Holding: After a three-day trial, a jury found in favor of the plaintiff, awarding him $1,000,000 in damages and $75,000 to his wife, Cecilia. The jury allocated 60% of the fault to E-Z Serve and 40% of the fault to the criminal assailants, finding that E-Z Serve's negligence caused the criminal attack. E-Z Serve's share of the verdict was $645,000. Under Louisiana law, a jury can consider the fault of all parties, even intentional tortfeasors/criminal defendants, in assessing civil liability. E-Z Serve moved for a judgment as a matter of law and for a new trial. Prior to a ruling on the defense motion, the parties agreed to settle the case for $415,000, and the case was dismissed. 

Damage Award $415,000 settlement 
Victim's Counsel     
Plaintiff's Counsel Helen H. Babin, Raul R. Bencomo, New Orleans 
Plaintiff's Expert      
Defense Counsel Al Bordelon, William Ellison 
Defense Expert      

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