The Johnny Depp and Amber Heard Verdict Is In. Now What?

For six weeks, the country watched as Johnny Depp and Amber Heard fought their way through their side of two defamation lawsuits. The former couple sued each other for millions of dollars, and millions of people watched the trial and verdict unfold on live television.

Now that the verdict has been announced, where does the story go from here?

What Was at Stake?

The Johnny Depp and Amber Heard defamation case was the result of a very public and very tumultuous relationship and break-up. Depp and Heard were often in the public eye as the media reported on their turbulent relationship. Once the couple officially split, they both pointed the finger at the other for the negative media reports.

Depp sued Heard for $50 million dollars in a defamation suit. 

In 2018, Heard wrote an editorial for The Washington Post indicating that she was a survivor of domestic violence. Due to the public nature of their relationship, many assumed the article was about Depp, although he was never named in the article. Depp says the story led him to being shunned in Hollywood and removed from movie projects.

Heard countersued Depp for $100 million dollars. 

Heard filed a countersuit against Depp, claiming that false statements made by his legal team had led her to also be denied work in the movie industry. Heard alleged that Depp’s former attorney, Adam Waldman, made three statements about her to The Daily Mail in 2020 that were untrue. In the statements, Waldman told The Daily Mail that Heard’s allegations of abuse were a “hoax.”

To win their defamation cases, Depp and Heard needed to prove three things.

  1. The statements made about them were false.
  2. The false statements led to damages.
  3. The statements were made as an act of malice.

It took seven jurors three days and 13 hours to submit a verdict in the case.

Related: What’s the Difference Between a Civil and Criminal Case? 

What Was the Verdict?

In a recent post on this blog, we outlined the possible outcomes for the Depp/Heard verdict. But, the ending was something unexpected.

Both parties won a portion of their claims.

Depp was awarded $10.4 million.

The jury unanimously found that Heard could not prove the allegations she made against Depp and that Heard knew her claims were false when she published the essay in The Washington Post. The jury also determined that Heard acted with malice.

While the jury sided with Depp, they did not award him the full $50 million in damages. They awarded him $10 million in compensatory damages and $5 million in punitive damages. The judge later decreased the amount of punitive damages to $350,000 to meet the state’s statutory cap.

Heard was awarded $2 million. 

The jury also unanimously found that Depp was guilty of defaming Heard on one account. Depp was held liable for the actions of his attorney. The jury decided Waldman’s statements were false and made with malice. The jury awarded Heard $2 million in compensatory damages and $0 in punitive damages.

The verdict in the case is very different from the outcome of a 2020 defamation case that Depp filed against The Sun, a tabloid magazine in the United Kingdom. In that case, a judge found The Sun’s statements calling Depp a “wife beater” to be “substantially true.” Depp failed to receive any damages in the case.

Related: What Does It Take to Be an Attorney for a High-Profile Case? 

What Happens Next?

The judge has ordered the parties to come back on June 24, 2022, to enter the judgment. Once the judgment is filed, each party will have 30 days to let the other side know if they plan to file an appeal. From that time, the party must file the appeal paperwork within 30 days.

Heard’s Next Moves

Heard’s team has already vowed to appeal the verdict. They have made suggestions of possible grounds for appeal. Heard’s legal team may file an appeal and argue the court’s decisions to:

  • Keep some of Heard’s medical records and correspondence from medical professionals out of evidence during the trial.
  • Litigate the case in Virginia instead of California where both Depp and Heard reside.
  • Allow the trial to be televised and not require a sequestered jury.

Heard’s team is not limited to these options and may include different reasons in their official appeal.

Depp’s Next Moves 

At this time, it doesn’t appear that Depp’s team is planning an appeal. If Heard files an appeal, she would still need to post an appeal bond. Deep’s team can begin to seek money from Heard as soon as 22 days after the judgment is filed.

Related: Dealing With the Media During a High-Profile Case: What to Expect

Work with Attorneys You Can Trust

When dealing with legal matters large or small, you must have an attorney you can trust. Always work with an experienced lawyer who can guide your case to the best possible outcome and who can share all of your possible options with you throughout your case.

Related: Find The Best Legal Representation by Asking This One Question

If you need legal support in either a civil or criminal matter, TJ Grimaldi is here to help. Get a free assessment of your case with TJ. Request your consultation or call 813-226-1023 today.

Hundreds of Lawsuits Combined Into One Case Against Travis Scott, Astroworld, and Others

 

It was supposed to be a night of music. Approximately 50,000 people gathered at NRG Park in Houston, Texas, for the Astroworld Festival. The festival was headlined by the event founder, Travis Scott. But as Scott took the stage, chaos ensued. The crowd surged, crushing attendees and leaving hundreds injured and at least ten people dead.

Now, close to 400 lawsuits seek justice for the victims. What happened? How will the cases work their way through the legal system? And, who will be responsible?

What Happened at Astroworld Festival?

On November 5, 2021, thousands of people gathered at NRG Park for Astroworld. Most of them were there to see the headliner, Travis Scott. When Scott took the stage around 9:00 pm., the huge audience began to press toward the stage, causing the large crowd to pack in even tighter. The swell of bodies increased temperatures, made it difficult to breathe, and caused attendees to fall and get stepped on by others around them.

While some attendees yelled for help and emergency vehicles began to remove people from the crowd, the concert mostly went out without interruption.

In the end, more than 300 people were treated for injuries at the festival, twenty-five people were taken to the hospital, and at least ten people died. An eleventh victim is said to include an unborn child who was lost in a miscarriage after the mother was injured at the event.

Now, nearly 5,000 legal claims have been filed against Scott, Astroworld, LiveNation, and others associated with the event.

Related: 6 of the Most Commonly Asked Questions About Personal Injury 

Who Is Charged with Wrongdoing?

Nearly 400 lawsuits have been filed related to the Astroworld incident. It has been reported that up to 50 defendants have been named throughout the list of lawsuits.

The primary defendants include: Scott, who performed and organized the event; Drake, who also performed at the event; LiveNation, who promoted the event; Apple Music, who streamed the event; multiple security firms involved with the event; and other producers and concert promoters connected to the event.

In the hundreds of lawsuits, there are thousands of legal claims. According to Vulture, as of May 9, there were a total of 4,932 legal claims on behalf of roughly 2,800 victims. The claims include:

  • 732 for physical injury with extensive medical treatment
  • 1,649 for physical injury with less extensive medical treatment
  • 2,540 listed as other

With so many cases filed, the Texas Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation granted a joint motion to combine the litigation before a single judge for all pre-trial proceedings, according to Billboard.

The hundreds of plaintiffs were grouped into four categories: those who were killed, those who have traumatic brain injuries, those who have bodily injury, and those who have PTSD. The plaintiffs are seeking wrongful death and personal injury compensation and alleging that the defendants were negligent in their duty to create a safe setting for attendees.

Related: Examples of Wrongful Death Cases Worth Fighting For

Will There Be Criminal Charges?

Shortly after the incident in November, both local and federal investigations were quickly launched.

According to Vulture, Houston city officials called the event a “mass casualty” incident. Houston Police Chief Troy Finner said on November 6, “It’s now a criminal investigation that’s going to involve our homicide division as well as narcotics.” This statement came in response to allegations that someone at the event was stabbing people with needles that contained narcotics.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott said he was forming a task force on concert safety to study what went wrong and how to prevent something similar from happening in the future. The FBI is also involved and launched a website where people can submit recordings and photos to help investigators collect information.

While there are local and federal investigations going on, it’s unlikely at this time that there will be any criminal charges filed. According to the New York Times, the outdoor venue could have held 200,000 people. It held far fewer people at the time, and legal permits were issued and inspectors were on site. The legal case will likely remain in civil courts.

Related: Types of Personal Injury Cases: Do You Have a Claim? 

Seeking Justice for Personal Injury

What happened at Astroworld was a terrible tragedy, and the people harmed by the incident are seeking justice for themselves and their loved ones. If you or someone you know isharmed by the negligence of another party, you also deserve justice.

If you believe you have a personal injury or a wrongful death claim, talk to an experienced attorney who can guide you through the legal system to get justice. TJ Grimaldi is an experienced attorney ready to discuss your case. Talk to him during a free consultation to review your case. Call 813-226-1023 or request your consultation today.

To Honor Chad Oulson, TJ Grimaldi Helps Launch Foundation to Support Victims of Gun Violence

Nicole and Alexis Oulson

To honor the life and legacy of Chad Oulson, a group of his family and friends launched the Oulson Family Foundation to offer support to children impacted by gun violence.

About The Oulson Family

On January 13, 2014, Chad Oulson was killed in a senseless act of gun violence. While on a mid-day movie date with his wife Nicole Oulson, Chad Oulson was involved in a confrontation with a man sitting in the row behind him. The confrontation ended with Chad Oulson being shot and killed.

Before the movie had even started, Nicole Oulson lost her husband and the father of her 22-month-old daughter, Alexis.

“In the blink of an eye, our lives were shattered beyond belief. I lost my husband, the love of my life, my rock, my everything. Our family lost a son, brother, uncle, and friend,” said Nicole Oulson.

Chad Oulson’s family sought justice through the legal system. For eight long years, the case dragged through the court system. Then on February 25, 2022, the family received more devastating news. A jury of six found the shooter not guilty of the murder of Chad Oulson.

“After eight long years of maneuvering through the judicial system, another unbelievable blow was delivered with a not guilty verdict. Again, my family was devastated,” said Nicole Oulson.

But, the family was not going to let the ruling stand between them and honor the life and legacy of Chad Oulson.

In May 2022, Chad’s friends and family created the Oulson Family Foundation.

Related: TJ Grimaldi Shares Reaction to “Wrong” Not Guilty Verdict in Reeves Murder Trial

About The Oulson Family Foundation

The Oulson Family Foundation is a non-profit with a mission to provide financial support to children impacted by gun violence.

Oulson Family Foundation

Nicole Oulson knows what families go through in the wake of gun violence, and she wanted to do something to offer support to families going through tragedies of their own.

“As a single mother of a young daughter, I know firsthand the financial, physical, and emotional toll that comes from gun violence. The pain is unimaginable, and the loss is something you can never plan for,” said Nicole Oulson. “After receiving an abundance of encouragement and support from people worldwide, I knew I needed to do my part.”

“The Oulson Family Foundation will strive to help other families that have children directly or indirectly impacted by gun violence.”

Nicole, Chad and Alexis Oulson

The Oulson Family Foundation will provide funds to help kids get what they need in the wake of being directly or indirectly impacted by gun violence.

Caretakers of children affected by gun violence can receive funds to provide financial assistance for medical bills, counseling, and education. The goal is to help families and children get what they need to heal and create a brighter future.

“They say it takes a village to raise our children. We are reaching out a hand to others to offer hope, support, and comfort during these unimaginable times,” says Nicole Oulson.

A Commitment of Support from TJ Grimaldi

For more than eight years, TJ Grimaldi stood by the family of Chad Oulson as they sought justice.

Grimaldi represented Nicole Oulson in civil matters and offered legal support throughout the criminal trial, which was litigated by state prosecutors. From the start, Grimaldi has been committed to fighting for Chad Oulson and his family, and he remains committed to that mission.

When the criminal court was unable to provide legal justice, Grimaldi sought another way to help honor the legacy of Chad Oulson, and he helped launch the Oulson Family Foundation. Grimaldi will sit on the board and work alongside Nicole Oulson and others to raise awareness and funds for families impacted by gun violence.

“It’s been my honor to represent the Oulson family, and now I’m glad I’m able to help honor Chad’s life in another way,” says Grimaldi.

“What happened to Nicole and Alexis was a terrible tragedy. I’ve seen how difficult it has been for them, and I hope the Oulson Family Foundation can help ease that burden, even just a little bit, for other families who have to endure something similar.”

How to Get Involved with the Oulson Family Foundation

If you would like to support the Oulson Family Foundation and help offer assistance to children impacted by gun violence, you can help too.

Please visit oulsonfamilyfoundation.com to learn more about the foundation’s mission and to make a donation. Your participation will offer kids a chance to heal and grow through financial assistance for medical bills, counseling, and education. Learn more and donate today.

If you or someone you know has a family impacted by gun violence, please visit the website to learn more about how you can apply for aid through the Oulson Family Foundation.

Gone But Not Forgotten #28

How Will the Johnny Depp and Amber Heard Case End? 6 Outcomes to Consider

All eyes will soon be on the jury of the Johnny Depp and Amber Heard defamation case. The trial is expected to end this week, and the jury will begin their deliberations.

What facts will the jury consider, and what are the possible outcomes of the case that has captured national attention?

The Facts of the Case

In 2018, Amber Heard wrote an editorial for The Washington Post indicating that she was a survivor of domestic abuse. While the article didn’t name Johnny Depp as Heard’s abuser, many people assumed the article was about Depp because the couple’s tumultuous relationship had been widely publicized throughout the years. Depp alleged that Heard’s story was fabricated and that the article led to financial hardship for him.

Depp filed a $50 million defamation civil suit against Heard in Fairfax County, Virginia (where the servers for The Washington Post are located) in an attempt to recoup the losses he said he experienced.

During the trial, two witnesses testified in an attempt to show the value of Depp’s losses. A forensic accountant testified that Depp lost $40 million in income after Heard’s allegations. Depp’s talent manager testified that Depp lost a $22.5 million deal with Disney for the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise after Heard’s article was published.

In response to Depp’s lawsuit, Heard filed a countersuit for $100 million.

Heard says that after Depp’s attorney told The Daily Mail that the actress’s allegations were an “abuse hoax,” she also experienced financial losses of her own, according to the New York Times. Heard’s attorneys say she was unable to find work after Depp’s “attempt to destroy and defame Ms. Heard in the press.” Unlike Depp, Heard hasn’t shown how she came up with the $100 million amount. Heard’s talent agent testified that her career prospects fell off after claims from Depp’s legal team, but the agent did not include specific financial numbers.

Related: Why Is Johnny Depp Suing His Ex-Wife, Amber Heard for $50 Million

What Does the Jury Have to Consider?

Both defamation cases have been wrapped into one trial. Seven jurors will determine if the defamation claims are accurate and if so, how much should be awarded in damages. The verdict must be unanimous.

Unlike a criminal case, the jury does not need to find the evidence convincing beyond a reasonable doubt. They only need to determine which side presented a stronger case.

The jury will decide whether or not they believe Heard’s claims of abuse to be legitimate. If they believe her claims match what happened, the defamation case is likely to swing her way. If they believe her claims were fabricated, the case will likely end in Depp’s favor.

The jury must also consider whether or not there was malice to defame one another. They must determine whether or not the exes choose to speak publicly about each other in a clear attempt to bring harm to one another.

If the jury decides one party attempted to defame the other, they will also have to determine how much the defamation cost the harmed party. The defamed party will need to clearly show how they arrived at the requested amount of damages.

Related: What Does It Take to Be an Attorney for a High-Profile Case? 

What Are the Possible Outcomes?

As the trial comes to an end, the seven jurors will make their judgment. What decisions could they come up with? There are a few possible outcomes.

Depp wins and is awarded the full $50 million. For this outcome, the jury would need to find that Heard’s claims were fabricated and intended to defame Depp and that the claims led to a loss valued at around $50 million for Depp.

Depp wins and is awarded less than $50 million. The jury may find that Heard’s claims were fabricated and intended to defame Depp but that the claims didn’t lead to a full $50 million in losses.

Heard wins and is awarded $100 million. If the jury believes Heard’s claims and that Depp’s legal team acted to discredit her, she may walk away with the full $100 million if the jury believes she experienced damages in that amount.

Heard wins and is awarded less than $100 million. The jury may believe Heard’s side of the story but not the amount of damages she experienced. She could win the case but walk away with a smaller amount of money in damages.

Neither is awarded damages. The jury could decide that no one in the case deserves damages.

The couple agrees to an out-of-court settlement. The couple’s legal teams could meet outside of the court and decide on a settlement of their own. This scenario is unlikely considering that the trial has already gone on for weeks.

We will have to wait and see what the jury decides. Even then, it is likely that the case will continue on as there is the potential for either side to file an appeal after this case concludes.

Related: Dealing With the Media During a High-Profile Case: What to Expect

Protect Your Interests

As we have seen with the Depp and Heard case, a lawsuit can completely disrupt your life. If you are facing a civil or criminal case, you need an attorney by your side who can give you advice and fight for you.

If you are in need of a personal injury attorney or criminal law representation, talk to an attorney right away. Schedule a free consultation to talk to TJ Grimaldi to share the details of your case and see how our experienced legal team can help. Request your consultation or call 813-226-1023 today.

Woman Faces Manslaughter Charges After Her Dogs Kill Public Health Employee

An Alabama Department of Public Health employee was trying to do her job. Following up on a report of a dog attack, the official went to talk to the owner of the dogs. But, the employee didn’t get a chance to talk to the owner or file her report. She was killed by the dogs she was there to investigate

Now the owner of the dogs faces manslaughter charges. How do Alabama and Florida laws handle a tragic situation like this, and what potential consequences will the owner of the dogs face?

A Dog Attack While Investigating a Dog Attack

Jacqueline Summer Beard, a 58-year-old environmental supervisor and Alabama Department of Public Health employee, had a job to do. Beard was following up on a case where a woman was attacked by a pack of dogs in northwestern Alabama. The dogs bit the woman and caused her to be hospitalized.

Beard’s job was to talk to the owner of the dog and investigate the attack. The health department follows up on animal bites to look for potential rabies risks. But, Beard didn’t get a chance to talk to the owner. Instead, she was attacked by the dogs and killed.

Authorities arrived on the scene after nearby residents called to report a suspicious vehicle. When police arrived, the dogs began attacking people on the scene. At least one dog was immediately euthanized. At that time, police found Beard’s vehicle and her body inside.

Beard had been trying to contact Brandy Dowdy, 39, the owner of the dogs. Beard never made contact with Dowdy. Now, Dowdy faces manslaughter charges for what happened to Beard.

The Dogs’ Owner Faces Criminal Charges in Alabama

Alabama has specific legislation that relates to dog attacks. The Dangerous Dog Law, often referred to as Emily’s Law, was created after Emily Colvin was killed outside of her home by a pack of dogs in Jackson County in 2017.

According to CBS News, Emily’s Law calls for felony and misdemeanor charges for dog attacks. An owner is said to be responsible if their animal attacks, injures, or kills a person. The consequences are more severe if the animal had previously been deemed dangerous.

AL.com reported:

“If a dog that has been previously declared dangerous kills or seriously injures a person, the owner could be charged with a Class B felony, punishable by 2 to 20 years in prison.

If a dog that has not been previously declared dangerous kills or seriously injures a person, and the owner knew the dog had a propensity to be dangerous and recklessly disregarded that, the owner could be charged with a Class C felony, punishable by 1 to 10 years.”

It’s not clear whether Dowdy’s dogs, seven in total, had been previously declared dangerous, but her criminal charges mean she may face from one to twenty years in prison.

Related: Types of Personal Injury Cases: Do You Have a Claim? 

Will the Dogs’ Owner Also Face Civil Charges?

At this time, the dog owner faces criminal charges from the state of Alabama. The owner may also face civil charges in the future.

Beard’s family may choose to sue for wrongful death. In that case, the family would sue Dowdy in civil court and attempt to seek damages. To prove fault in a personal injury or wrongful death case, the family would need to prove that the death was caused by the negligence of the owner.

At this time, no civil charges have been filed.

Related: What’s the Difference Between a Civil and Criminal Case? 

What Are the Laws Regarding Dog Attacks in Florida?

In Florida, dangerous dog attacks are defined in Florida Statutes Chapter 767. Owners can be held liable for any injury their dog inflicts on a person, domestic animal, or livestock. There are some exceptions, such as if a victim’s negligence led to the attack or if there were signs present on private property warning people of the dog’s presence.

Like Alabama, Florida also has specific guidelines for dealing with incidents with dangerous dogs. A dog is deemed dangerous if it has:

“(a) Has aggressively bitten, attacked, or endangered or has inflicted severe injury on a human being on public or private property;

(b) Has more than once severely injured or killed a domestic animal while off the owner’s property; or

(c) Has, when unprovoked, chased or approached a person upon the streets, sidewalks, or any public grounds in a menacing fashion or apparent attitude of attack, provided that such actions are attested to in a sworn statement by one or more persons and dutifully investigated by the appropriate authority.”

If a dog has been declared dangerous, the owner can face more severe charges if the dog attacks and causes injury or death. The owner could be charged with a third-degree felony and face up to five years in jail.

In Florida, a victim or their family can also pursue a civil case if they are involved in a dog attack. They can sue for wrongful death or personal injury.

Talk to a Personal Injury Attorney About Animal Attacks

If you or someone you know has been involved in an animal attack, you deserve justice. Whether or not the owner of the dog has been criminally charged, you may have an option to pursue civil charges. Talk to a personal injury attorney or a wrongful death attorney to share the details of your story and see if you have a case.

Talk to an attorney right away. Schedule your call with personal injury attorney, TJ Grimaldi. Schedule your free consultation or call 813-226-1023.

Man Sued for $15 Million After His Mechanic Dies While Changing His Car’s Oil

A man in Rochester Hills, Michigan, was running a standard errand. He took his car to the dealership to have his oil changed. While he sat in the lobby waiting for his car, there was an accident in the shop. A mechanic drove the car into another mechanic, killing him.

Two years later, the car owner faces a $15 million lawsuit for the accident he had nothing to do with.

Why is he liable? And ultimately, who will be responsible for the terrible accident?

Related: How Do You Sue for Wrongful Death?

What Went Wrong in the Auto Shop?

In March 2020, a man brought his car in for an oil change and handed his keys over to the Rochester Hills Chrysler Jeep Dodge dealership. He sat in the waiting room while the dealership took the car into the shop for service. At some point, a 19-year-old mechanic got behind the wheel of the man’s vehicle, and tragedy occurred.

“He starts the car, removes his foot from the clutch, and you know what happens? The Jeep jumps and kills my client,” recounts David Femminineo, the attorney representing the family of the man who died.

The young mechanic made a mistake which caused the car to move forward and hit another mechanic, 42-year-old Jeffrey Hawkins who died instantly. It was later reported that the young mechanic didn’t know how to drive a stick-shift vehicle and had no license, according to a report by Fox 13.

Now, two years later, the Hawkins family is fighting for damages as a result of the accident. They are suing for $15 million. But, the defendant isn’t the person who caused the accident or the owner of the dealership.

The defendant in the case is the owner of the car.

Related: 5 Reasons to Contact a Car Accident Lawyer After a Crash 

How Are the Mechanic’s Family Seeking Justice?

The owner of the car was seated in the waiting room when the accident occured, but Michigan law holds him responsible for what happened and potentially liable for $15 million in damages.

According to Michigan law, when someone is injured or killed and a vehicle is involved, the owner of the car is responsible, as reported by Fox 2.

While it may seem like the dealership or the driver of the car should be responsible, Michigan law makes it impossible for the victim’s family to sue them because the accident happened at work and involved two employees. In Michigan, an injured coworker cannot sue the boss because of the boss’ negligence. The family cannot sue the dealership or driver for wrongful death, so they are exercising another option.

The family sued the owner of the vehicle. Michigan state law says the owner of a car is responsible for the acts of anyone driving their car. The car owner’s insurance company has already paid out $100,000, and the Hawkins family is seeking an additional $15 million.

But, it doesn’t mean the driver will have to pay.

Related: Workplace Accidents: Is It Workers’ Comp or Personal Injury?   

So, Who Is Legally Responsible?

The owner of the car has filed a lawsuit of his own. He has sued the owner of the dealership for indemnity, which passes responsibility for the accident back onto the dealership.

A court has determined that the car dealership is responsible for the losses or damages incurred by the driver as a result of the accident. The lawsuit puts the burden back on the dealership, meaning the dealership — not the driver — is responsible for damages in the Hawkins’ lawsuit.

As the indemnity lawsuit currently stands, the dealership will be responsible for covering the damages If the Hawkins family wins their lawsuit.

But, the driver isn’t off the hook yet.

The dealership is going to appeal the indemnity ruling. If the ruling in the case is reversed, the burden of damages would again fall back onto the owner of the car.

The wrongful death case is now headed to trial. Both the owner of the car and the dealership are fighting to avoid liability in the case. The attorney representing the dealership is now working with the owner of the car’s legal team as they both have an interest in winning the case. If the Hawkins family fails to win their case, both the owner of the car and the owner of the dealership can avoid liability in the case.

Related: How to Prove Fault in Personal Injury Case

Talk to an Experienced Wrongful Death Attorney

As you can see, personal injury and wrongful death cases can be complicated. Options for families to receive compensation aren’t always clear. But one thing is clear: if you had a family member injured or killed in an accident, you deserve justice.

Talk to a personal injury attorney or a wrongful death attorney if you have experienced damages or losses as a result of another party’s negligence. Discuss your case today by contacting attorney, TJ Grimaldi. Schedule your free consultation or call 813-226-1023 to see how TJ and his legal team can help you get justice for your loved one.

Florida Sheriff Encourages Homeowners to Shoot Burglars. Is It Good Advice?

When police in Santa Rosa, Florida, finally caught a burglar who had broken into multiple homes, they saw he had a gunshot wound. The County Sheriff seemed to salute the shooter and encourage others to shoot at anyone who breaks into their property. Is this good advice?

Florida Sheriff Praises Person Who Shot Home Burglar

On a Wednesday night in April, a neighborhood in Pace, Florida, had a flood of break-ins. Multiple residents called to report that someone had broken into their houses. When police showed up, they pursued the culprit as he ran away, jumping over fences and continuing to break into houses.

When they finally caught the 32-year-old suspect, he was wounded. He was shot, but not by a police officer. A homeowner had shot him presumably while the burglar was on their property. No one claimed responsibility for the shooting, and the burglar was arrested.

It seems that Santa Rosa County Sheriff, Bob Johnson approved of the shooting, according to statements he made at a press conference.

As reported by the Tampa Bay Times, Sheriff Johnson commended the shooter, saying he or she should attend a gun safety course to “learn to shoot a lot better” and “save the taxpayers money.”

“If someone is breaking into your house, you’re more than welcome to shoot at them in Santa Rosa County. We’d prefer that you do actually,” he said.

The sheriff also encouraged other residents to take action if they find someone breaking into their house. He invited people to take the sheriff’s office gun safety course offered every other Saturday, adding, “If you take that, you’ll shoot a lot better, and hopefully, you’ll save the taxpayers money.”

It begs the question: is it legal to shoot someone who breaks into your house, whether or not the local sheriff told you to?

Related: The Best Criminal Defense Attorneys Have These 7 Qualities

What Happens if You Shoot a Burglar on Your Property in Florida?

In the burglar shooting, it appears that no homeowner wanted to admit that they shot the culprit. Even after the sheriff’s encouraging words, no one came forward to take responsibility. It seems that whoever shot the burglar didn’t want to face any potential attention or consequences for their actions.

Without knowing the full details of what happened, we can’t know if what the shooter did would leave them in legal trouble. But, we can look at Florida laws to see what laws relate to the incident.

Florida Statute 776.031 outlines the use or threatened use of force in defense of property. It says a person is not permitted to use deadly force to prevent trespass. But, it also says a person is justified in “using or threatening to use deadly force only if he or she reasonably believes that such conduct is necessary to prevent the imminent commission of a forcible felony.”

According to this part of Florida law, it may be lawful to shoot someone if they break into your property and you believe they are going to commit a felony.

Another Florida law also relates to the situation.

Under Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law, individuals can use deadly force as a means to protect themselves without first retreating from the threat. Florida Statute 776.012 says, “The use of deadly force is justifiable when a person is resisting any attempt to murder such person or to commit any felony upon him or her or upon or in any dwelling house in which such person shall be.”

According to this part of Florida law, it may be lawful to shoot someone if they break into your property and you believe they are going to murder you or someone else.

Related: What to Ask During a Free Consultation with a Lawyer

So, Is It Legal to Shoot an Intruder?

While Santa Rosa County Sheriff Johnson may have encouraged homeowners to shoot people on their property, it may not be as cut and dry as he made it sound.

If a person is in their home and feels that they have a reasonable fear of imminent death, danger, or bodily harm from an intruder or if they believe the intruder is about to commit a felony, the homeowner may be able to shoot and kill a person and not face any legal consequences.

But, it isn’t always a sure thing.

If you shoot someone, you would need to prove that you thought the intruder was going to commit a felony or harm you. Also, if you shoot an intruder in the back, you may not be able to use the “Stand Your Ground” law.

Related: If You’re Arrested for a Crime, Immediately Take These 6 Steps

Work with a Criminal Defense

Even if you shoot someone in self-defense, you should still talk to a criminal defense attorney. Cases are rarely as cut and dry as they seem. An experienced attorney can protect your rights and ensure that you get the most fair and just outcome possible.

For criminal defense legal support, schedule a time to talk to TJ Grimaldi today. Schedule your free consultation or call 813-226-1023.

Wrongful Death Lawsuit Filed in Tragic Orlando FreeFall Ride Accident

What was supposed to be a fun night for Missouri teens on spring break in Florida turned into a tragedy when 14-year-old Tyre Sampson fell from his seat on a FreeFall amusement park ride and died.

Now, as the parents and the state of Florida try to make sense of the terrible accident, Sampson’s parents are moving forward with legal action. Sampson’s parents have filed a wrongful death lawsuit.

What Went Wrong on the FreeFall Ride?

In Orlando’s ICON Park stands FreeFall. Referred to as the “world’s tallest drop tower,” the ride rises to 400 feet in the air before dropping passengers on a freefall. It is a relatively new ride that opened in December 2021.

On March 24, 14-year-old Tyre Sampson wanted to take a ride on FreeFall. The teen was visiting Florida while on spring break with a friend’s family. He took a seat on FreeFall, and no one stopped him — even though they should have.

The ride’s operating manual says the maximum passenger weight for the ride is 286. Samson stood at 6 feet, 5 inches and reportedly weighed 360 pounds.

He should not have been allowed on the ride, and according to reports, the ride should not have operated without his seat being secure.

But, the ride took off.

On the ride’s descent, Sampson fell from his seat and was tragically killed.

Related: Examples of Wrongful Death Cases: Do You Have a Case?   

The Findings from Florida’s State Investigation

After the tragic event, the state of Florida hired the forensics company, Quest Engineering to determine what went wrong on the ride. Released on April 18, 2022, the report indicated that “manual adjustments” were one of the factors that contributed to the accident, as reported by Fox 35 in Orlando.

Florida Agriculture Commissioner, Nikki Fried shared some of the findings during a press conference:

“The report confirms that manual adjustments had been made to the sensor for the seat in question that allowed the harness’ restraint opening to be almost double that of the normal restraint’s opening range.

These misadjustments allowed the safety lights to illuminate – improperly satisfying the ride’s electronic safety mechanisms — that allowed the ride to operate even though Mr. Sampson was not properly secured in the seat.”

One week after the state’s report was released, Sampson’s family filed a wrongful death lawsuit.

Related: How Do You Sue for Wrongful Death? 

Wrongful Death Lawsuit Filed by Sampson’s Family

The 65-page wrongful death civil lawsuit was filed in Orange County’s Ninth Judicial Circuit Court on behalf of Sampson’s parents, Nekia Dodd and Yarnell Sampson, and Sampson’s estate.

According to Fox 35 in Orlando, the lawsuit names the owners and manufacturers of the Orlando FreeFall ride, the operators of ICON Park which is the amusement park where the ride is located, and the construction company that built the ride.

The wrongful death suit alleges that the defendants:

  • Failed to follow ride’s safety guidelines
  • Failed to ensure Sampson was properly secured before the ride took off
  • Failed to post warnings about height and weight restrictions
  • Failed to install adequate restraints systems

The lawsuit requests trial by jury and seeks an unknown amount of damages. It states that Sampson “had a long and prosperous life in front of him that was cut short by this tragic event.”

How to Prove Fault in a Wrongful Death Case

Attorneys representing Sampson’s family will now seek to prove in court that the accident should never have happened and that the named defendants are to blame.

To prove fault in a personal injury case, attorneys in Sampson’s case must prove four things.

  1. Negligence: Attorneys must show that that accident was caused because one or more people or businesses were aware of an unsafe condition and failed to act to make it safe.
  2. Causation: Attorneys must show that the proven negligence was the direct cause of the accident. The accident only happened because of the negligence.
  3. Damages: Attorneys must show that damages were caused as a result of the accident. Damages can be monetary (such as cost of funeral, loss of potential income, etc.) and non-monetary (such as emotional trauma, loss of companionship, etc.).
  4. Breach of Duty: Attorneys must show that the defendant or defendants had a duty to provide a safe condition for the plaintiff.

The Sampson family lawsuit was filed on April 25, 2022, and no court dates have been set as of now. The Sampson family will seek to get their day in court and find justice for their son.

Related: 6 of the Most Commonly Asked Questions About Personal Injury 

Seeking Justice in Wrongful Death and Personal Injury Cases

If you or someone you love was injured in an accident, you deserve justice. Talk to a personal injury or wrongful death attorney about how you can hold parties accountable for negligence that resulted in an accident or damages.

See if you have a case worth fighting for. Schedule a time to talk to TJ Grimaldi today. To talk to TJ, schedule your free consultation or call 813-226-1023.