Our View: Tragic Death in Florida Parking Lot Involved Wrongful Death
Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law has been the subject of much debate lately, especially after the publicized fatal encounter in July between two men in the parking lot of the “Circle A” convenient store in Clearwater.
While the sheriff has decided not to arrest and charge the shooter—indicating that he operated within Florida’s Stand Your Ground law—the question of whether the family of the victim can bring a wrongful death lawsuit against the shooter still remains, as we discuss in detail below.
Reportedly, after one man parked his car in a handicapped space of the convenience store parking lot, he went into the store with his son, leaving his girlfriend and other children in the car. Another man proceeded to pull up beside their car, get out, and yell at the family members in the car for parking in a handicapped space. When the first man got out of the store, he pushed the second man, who then shot the former twice, leading to his death.
How This Is Wrongful Death, Not Self-Defense
Many now take issue with the sheriff’s conclusion that Florida’s Stand Your Ground law prohibits the sheriff from arresting and charging the shooter, as it is difficult to see how the shooter’s use of lethal force could have been justified. The law was not intended to provide a free pass to shoot whoever angers you by simply stating that you (the shooter) subjectively believed that you would otherwise be harmed.
While the sheriff claims that the law does not allow law enforcement to substitute its judgment for that of the shooter’s, in fact, the law does require that both police and prosecutors assess the judgment that lies behind a shooting like this. Like many other laws, the action (or shooting) must be compared to the “reasonable person” standard in order to determine if it was reasonably done in self-defense, or if it was murder. Specifically, the statute requires that one only use lethal force “if it is necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm.”Any belief that you absolutely had to use lethal force or you would have been killed or maimed must be reasonable in the circumstances.
It is difficult to argue that this is the case when someone is shot from behind while walking away from a confrontation. Precisely because the deceased was described as backing away when the shooter drew his gun, there is a reasonable argument that the shooter did not believe that shooting the victim was necessary, which gives rise to a wrongful death claim.
Florida Wrongful Death Attorneys
If someone else’s intentional, willful conduct has robbed you of a loved one; contact one of our experienced personal injury and wrongful death attorneys at Lavalle, Brown & Ronan today to find out what your rights are and how you can obtain justice.