On Nov. 9, 2005, plaintiff's decedent Shelton Flowers, 30, attended a showing of the film "Get Rich or Die Tryin'" at a Loews movie theater at the Waterfront shopping center and commercial plaza, in Homestead. Flowers' estate alleged that, after the film's showing, Flowers became involved in an altercation in the men's restroom with several individuals, including a man named LeRue Graves. The altercation spilled out of the men's restroom and quickly escalated, resulting in Graves shooting and killing Flowers. Graves was later convicted of third-degree murder and sentenced to life imprisonment.
Flowers' estate sued the movie theater and its parent and holding companies for negligent security and wrongful death.
Plaintiffs' attorney argued that defendants were negligent in failing to provide adequate security and failing to take adequate security measures despite knowledge of prior violent and criminal incidents at and around the premises. Moreover, the defendants knew, or should have known, that violent incidents occurred not only at this theater and its surrounding areas, but also at theaters in other cities during screenings of this same movie, "Get Rich or Die Tryin'." These theories were supported by the Flowers' security expert, who said that the subject theater was located in a high crime area.
The defendants denied the allegations and maintained that Flowers was contributorily negligent, as he was carrying a .45 caliber Springfield and two ammunition clips for a .45 caliber pistol at the time of the incident. Defense counsel maintained that Loews had retained West Homestead Police Officer Charles Rozzo to provide security at the theater on the date of the incident.
The defense also relied upon the testimonies of eyewitnesses who said that Flowers instigated the fight with Graves in the men's room by sucker-punching Graves, and that Flowers fired shots at Graves.
According to a lieutenant with the Allegheny County Police Homicide Division, there was nothing that could have been done to prevent two combatants from shooting at each other in a public place. This theory was supported by the defense security expert, who said that Loews exhibited the requisite standard of care by ensuring that an armed, uniformed and certified police officer was present on the premises. According to the expert, neither a homicide nor any other incident involving serious bodily harm occurred at the Waterfront movie theater during the two years prior to the incident in question. Although there are pockets of crime in some of the neighborhoods near the retail center, said the expert, it cannot be accurately stated that the Waterfront is significantly more dangerous than any other retail center near urban areas. The expert concluded that the theater met the duty of care by ensuring more than adequate security.
Flowers was taken by ambulance to UMPC Presbyterian Hospital where he was pronounced dead after having been shot in the femoral artery. The estate sought to recover a total economic loss of $206,372 as well as unspecified damages for pain and suffering.
After only 35 minutes of deliberations the jury came back with a verdict finding the movie theater negligent but that that negligence did not cause the harm done to Flowers. Share this post :