When New Jersey Courts interpreted Victim’s Rights/Negligent Security actions using the “totality of the circumstances” standards, the chances of obtaining a summary judgment on these claims decreased significantly. However, in the appropriate case with the appropriate facts, courts have been granting these motions, especially where there are both superseding circumstances and a lack of duty between the property owner and the victim of a crime. The court’s recent determinations in doing so provides a balance to this difficult area of law. That balance was affirmed by the Appellate Division, supporting the Trial Court’s granting of a motion for summary judgment, in White v. Getty Petroleum MKTG.[1] Knowing the firms involved in this matter, I suspect that there will be a Petition to the Supreme Court regarding that affirmation.

The facts in the case show that Plaintiff, Jerome White, was driving a known gang member, Mr. Parker, when he decided to get gas at the Getty gas station. Within ten to fifteen seconds of arriving at the gas station, Walter Gleaton approached the passenger side of the vehicle, had brief words with Mr. Parker, and then shot at both Mr. Parker and Plaintiff. One bullet fractured Plaintiff’s thoracic vertebrae rendering him a paraplegic.

[1] 2016 N.J. Super. Unpub. LEXIS 136 (January 25, 2016).

The history between the two is that Gleaton and Parker were gang members and had a history of animosity. The evidence established that Gleaton had identified Parker to law enforcement as having committed a crime. Parker then declared, in gangland parlance, that Gleaton was “food,” that is, someone who should be killed for wrongdoing. Gleaton later recanted his report and Parker was released from jail, but the animosity continued.

The occurrence was at 2:19 a.m. at a 24-hour gas station owned and operated by the Defendant. Plaintiff proceeded with a Victim’s Rights/Negligent Security action, claiming that the Defendant breached its duty to protect Plaintiff and other similarly situated individuals from foreseeable criminal acts by third parties. Plaintiff contends that the business owner owes a duty to invited guests to maintain the business premises in a reasonably safe condition. Further, Plaintiff argues that to operate a gas station 24 hours a day in a location engulfed in criminal activity created a “magnet business” to crime. Plaintiff emphasized that no other nearby establishments remain open after midnight, in addition to the “extreme safety measures” implemented to protect employees of the gas station, including bulletproof glass. Plaintiff relied upon two experts who opined that the area was considered a “hot spot” for crime and that the gas station “ignored the public’s interests in its failure to take proactive measures to recognize foreseeable harm.”

Read complete article here – White v Getty Petroleum – Gang Shooting.pdf