phillips & hunt PULSE Shooting: Analyzing the Liability of Those Involved
Omar Mateen caused the death of 49 people and wounded of over 50 others, some gravely. Families were destroyed. In addition, he terrorized others who may not have been struck by gunfire, but who will live with post traumatic stress for life. Others still are out of a job and a place of business was made structurally unsound. The losses can be felt in the countless gofundme pages we have recounted here.
We have been asked by families and friends of multiple victims to explain their legal rights. We have declined to get involved with any civil claims or suits at this point. Right now, the focus is on healing and coming together. John Phillips, the firm’s principal, has attended multiple vigils and visited both the exterior of the crime and multiple memorials. This is a guide to victims, media and other lawyers on what remedies are available to victims.
As a national voice, Board Certified Civil Trial lawyer and lawyer who takes shooting cases, including club shooting cases all over the State, John has been asked to comment on whether the victims have a viable case here. Here is his analysis. These considerations can be examined by a lawyer to determine if the families or any victims want to take legal action. They are welcome to call John, who will provide advice and assistance.
phillips & hunt Seddique Mateen (father of Omar Mateen)
Any time researching the videotaped past of Omar Mateen’s family, including his father, Seddique Mateen reveals warning signs. A frequent online web host and contributor to social media pages, Seddique claimed to lead a government-in-exile of his native Afghanistan and possibly supported the Taliban. Statements such as, “God will punish those involved in homosexuality” are as infuriating as they are ignorant. In his many interviews, he appears inconsistent and dishonest while attempting to half-heartedly claim ignorance of his son’s serial instances of violent tendencies and building discontent. Seddique’s moral responsibility is unlimited, as he not only sat on his hands, but in some ways actively encouraged Omar Mateen’s repeated bad decision making and growing rage. He’s easy to detest.
Did he know his son would do this or create enough of a likelihood that he’d do this to carry vicarious responsibility? Only law enforcement knows for sure and there is no released evidence of that at this point. As such, legally we don’t see liability based on the facts known thus far. We do not see a court finding enough of a correlation between Omar Mateen’s rampage and any indirect or direct action of Seddique Mateen.
More is to be determined as evidence comes out.
phillips & hunt Noor Salman Mateen
Noor Salman Mateen is a different story. Omar Mateen and Noor Salman, 30, were married in September 2011 after meeting online. They spent a large amount of time together leading up to his act of terrorism.
Furthermore, she was aware of behavior which was a sign of some sort of impending activity. Salman was seemingly aware of Omar selling off assets, such as selling his house to his brother-in-law for $10. She was reportedly added to his life-insurance policy and given access to his bank accounts. Omar Mateen bought nearly $9,000 worth of jewelry less than a week before he killed 49 people at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida. He also spend thousands arming up for the event.
Noor also made some sort of admission to law enforcement that she and her husband had recently been “scouting Downtown Disney and Pulse [the nightclub where the jihad massacre took place] for attacks.” Mateen texted her during his massacre, asking if she had seen the news; she responded that she loved him.
There is a lot of evidence that she knew or should of known about this. She should have stopped him and, indeed, may have assisted or been an accessory to the crime. She could face criminal charges including the intentional concealing of knowledge of a felony, aiding and abetting a crime, accessory to murder before or during the crime or even conspiracy to commit an act of terrorism, depending on her level of culpability. We understand a grand jury is looking into an indictment.
Depending on her level of involvement, she is also subject to a civil wrongful death claim. However, assets are very limited and this is a sort of suit which would cost more than one could ever recover if successful. However, it is a legally viable suit.
phillips & hunt Estate of Omar Mateen
Omar Mateen has died. As such, there is limited which can be gained from suing him or his estate. You cannot charge a dead person with a crime, so while the investigation is going on, no criminal charges will result.
On the civil side, Mateen was already wasting assets in advance of his terrorist act. Based on the very limited resources, this is also a suit which would cost more than one could ever recover if successful.
phillips & hunt Other Co-Conspirators
It is unknown if others were involved. The FBI has gotten tips such as this one and are investigating all reasonable leads.
phillips & hunt Pulse Nightclub (employees)
Pulse Nightclub employees may have a workers compensation claim available to them. The Florida Workers’ Compensation law provides that all employers with four or more employees must provide workers’ compensation coverage. If an employee is injured in the course and scope of employment, he or she is eligible for workers’ compensation benefits. Death benefits are also potentially available and are usually limited to spouses, children, and other family members who lived with the deceased employee and were dependent upon him or her for financial support.
phillips & hunt Pulse Nightclub (non employees)
Property owners, business owners and operators in Florida have a general legal obligation to keep people on their premises safe. When they are negligent in providing basic security for the premises, they can be held liable if someone is injured or personal property has been stolen or damaged. We don’t know if this was the case, as this was an intentional act of terrorism.
Further, allegations have arisen that Omar Mateen had been there before. If so, had he expressed any threats or outbursts? Did he force his way in at the time or walk in with that much ammunition unchecked? These are important questions.
We handle these cases often. It is our personal opinion that anyone looking to sue Pulse is wrong and has misplaced the blame. On the same token, their insurance carrier (if any) should immediately tender all policy limits to a fund set aside for the victims regardless of exclusions. The owners were victims and core members to the community. There was little to no stopping this cowardly, horrible act.
phillips & hunt ISIS
Believe it or not, we even looked into the law and possibility of suing ISIS and/or any supporting countries.Whether they actually were involved in the planning of this crime, they certainly took praise and credit.
This isn’t necessarily about a money judgment, as collecting assets will be difficult to impossible given the issues regarding execution of assets, but lawsuits might be an effective way to use the judicial branch to expand victims’ rights to sue as Congress has essentially filibustered attempts to pass such laws as JASTA (see link below).
If any lawyers are looking into doing this, we will provide support. Read more about that here.
phillips & hunt Go Fund Me Pages / Fundraiser Liability
We have indexed many of the pages here. Families of deceased victims and surviving victims should check these pages and make sure they are valid and all funds are received in proper course. All of the fundraisers are great, but too many take advantage in times like these.
Given the enormous amounts of funds being raised, we hope there is structure in place to distribute, as well as independent audit and oversight.
phillips & hunt State, county and local victims’ compensation funds
There are various victims compensation systems through the state attorney’s offices, attorney general’s office and potentially other government and non-profit entities. One should contact these offices for more details.
phillips & hunt Conclusion
This was a massive tragedy. More information is needed. These considerations can be examined by a lawyer to determine if the families or any victims want to take legal action. The tragedy will stem a lot of conversations, as usual, about mental illness, guns, security, terrorism, fear and use of social media. Hopefully, we find a way to unite our voices and halt these tragedies. Our prayers travel with you all.
We invite you to review our verdicts, our accolades and awards and what clients have to say about us and give us a call for a free consultation where our lawyers will consult with you personally. John represents clients all over Florida, Georgia and Alabama and before the U.S. Supreme Court with passion and compassion. Our firm handles a wide variety of injury and death cases, criminal defense, family law and a host of high profile matters all over. We can be emailed at [email protected] or call us at (904) 444-4444 and be there within 24 hours.