High School Senior Shot and Killed at Graduation Party

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George and Sandra Easter, Individually, and as the Sole Heirs of Christopher Easter, Deceased, vs. Franklin Hunter, Individually, Mary Carter, Individually, Franklin Hunter and Mary Carter, Jointly and Severally d/b/a Partnership, Mote & Associates, Inc., Joyce Johnson, Individually, Joyce Johnson d/b/a Special Events II, Royce Carpenter, Diane Mitchell, John Pierce, Alicia Pierce, Kevin Roberson, III, Nicholas Lee Brown and Deandre Riden, No. 03-02539B, Dallas County District Court, 44th, TX Judge David Kelton, Plaintiffs represented by Grossman Law Offices, E. Michael Grossman and John Pate.

On June 3, 2001, plaintiffs' descendent Christopher Easter, 18, attended a party for graduation seniors that had been advertised by posters at several south Dallas high schools. The party was in a commercial building located at 214 S. Main St. in Duncanville that was managed by Mote & Associates Inc. and owned by Franklin Hunter and Mary Carter. The party was hosted by Royce and Diane Carpenter. Easter arrived at the party around 11:15 and left around midnight. The students in attendance included member of various local gangs. When Eater and some friends left, there were walking off the property when some gang members confronted them. According to allegations made in court documents, Fern Robertson III shot Easter in the head in the course of the melee, killing him. Roberson, who was standing off the premises when he allegedly shot Easter, had been at the party for a time and was asked to leave.

Christopher's parents, George and Sandra Easter, sued Mote & Associates, the Carpenters, Carter, Hunter and other individuals for wrongful death and negligent security. The Easters alleged that the defendants were responsible for failing to provide security for the premises. The Easters argued that the defendants should have both screened entrants and provided security, but failed to do either effectively. Although, the shooter had been asked to leave and was off the property, the plaintiffs argued that the defendants had created an environment where criminal acts were unimpeded. They also argued that the course of events showed that the hosts knew that the shooter might be a danger, and that they should have called the police.

Kevin Carpenter, Darrell Carpenter, John Pierce, Alicia Pierce and Joyce Johnson, operating as Special Events II, were non-suited following discovery after the plaintiffs concluded that they had not been present or otherwise responsible for security at the premises.

The remaining defendants all denied negligence. They contended that they could not be held not be held liable because the shooting incident was unforeseeable, and because the shooter was not standing on the property when he fired the weapon. They also argued that Easter was also off the premises, and that he and his friends had partly instigated the confrontational fistfight. The plaintiffs contended that, while Easter’s body was a few inches from the property line, nevertheless the fight started partially on the property, and his body could have fallen over the line when he was shot.

Hunter and Carter also filed a third-party suit against Roberson and two of his friends who were present, Nicholas Lee Brown and Deandre Riden. Hunter and Carter alleged that they, along with the parents responsible for arranging for the party, were responsible for creating the dangerous situation. They contended that the parents represented to them that the party was a private affair, not open to the public.

Plaintiffs attorney E. Michael Grossman may be contacted at http://www.injuryrelief.com

Damages/Injuries:

The plaintiffs claimed damages for loss of consortium plus survival damages on behalf of the estate.

Result:

The parties settled for $195,000. Hunter, Carter and Mote & Associates paid $95,000 between them, and they settled prior to summary judgment. The Carpenters paid $100,000, which was their policy limit, after their motion for summary judgment was denied.

The plaintiffs' firm commented that the settlement may have been clinched after one of the defendants stated that they did not call the police because they did not want to ruin the kids fun.

Plaintiffs attorney E. Michael Grossman may be contacted at http://www.injuryrelief.com

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Michael Grossman