Making sense of a loved one’s death is never easy, regardless of the circumstances. Anger is a well-known part of the grieving process, and as a result, many well-meaning people dismiss post-death anger as a passing symptom not necessarily based on logic.
While this may be true sometimes, anger can also arise as a healthy response to injustice. After an untimely death, it’s always worth double-checking whether that death really was the result of a tangible injustice capable of being addressed. In other words, was it wrongful?
Wrongful deaths can happen in near-infinite ways, but the defining factor that separates them from other deaths is negligence. If a person’s death wouldn’t have happened if it hadn’t been for the irresponsible behavior of someone else, that’s a wrongful death.
Below, we’ll discuss common types of life-threatening negligence in Smyrna, and how bereaved families can recognize wrongful death and pursue compensation. If you’re uncertain whether your loved one’s death qualifies, or would simply prefer to speak to a lawyer immediately, feel free to reach out by phone or chat at any time.
Nearly Half of Smyrna Residents Rely on Landlords for Home Safety
As of the 2019 census, over 44% of all occupied housing units in Smyrna were rented, rather than owned by an inhabitant. People who rent their homes often have very little control over how those homes are maintained or kept safe.
The individuals and, more often, companies that make their money by owning housing and charging rent have a legal responsibility to keep that housing in livable condition. This includes addressing known threats to the residents’ health and safety in a timely manner. Many landlords ignore this responsibility to minimize their costs and maximize their profits.
Some dangers found in apartment buildings and other rented homes are easily recognizable as property management issues, such as faulty wiring, rusty handrails, and leaky gas appliances. However, many renters also face a life-threatening risk of violence in their homes, and few realize that this can be a property management issue too.
In Smyrna, in November of 2020, a man shot a woman nine times at the Alder Park Apartments, then stole her friend’s car and chased him around with it, before ultimately calling the police to turn himself in. The friend had come to help the woman collect her things, after the shooter had kicked her out of the apartment they’d previously shared.
Less than a year later, a man held another man hostage, allegedly at gunpoint, on a balcony of the Concord Crossing Apartments. A crisis negotiator and SWAT team responded to the scene, where a SWAT officer ultimately shot the hostage-taker. The hostage was brought to Wellstar Kennestone to be treated for serious injuries apparently sustained during his captivity. Members of the hostage-taker’s family say that he was having a mental health episode, and had run away from that same hospital earlier in the day after waiting hours for help.
The same month, police also responded to a crisis at the Edison at the Battery Apartments. In that case, a man was threatening to shoot himself. Police report fatally shooting him after he turned his gun on them.
Landlords obviously can’t control all of the factors that influence apartment shootings, but there are things they can do. For example, if any of the tenants involved in the above incidents had shown violent tendencies, publicly mishandled weapons, or made direct threats against others, management could have reached out to family or law enforcement before a tense, life-threatening altercation could take place.
Non-Residential Landlords Must Also Prioritize Safety and Security
Just like residential landlords, owners of property that is open to the public have a duty to keep that property in safe condition for guests. What specific safety measures a landlord should implement depend on the type of property, its history, and its location.
For example, a gym in a low-crime area might not need much security, but might need plenty of lifeguards to keep people safe in the pool. Meanwhile, a gas station owner doesn’t have to worry about drownings, but might need to take fairly strong precautions against crime, especially if there has already been violence in the area.
Unfortunately, it’s much easier to find locations in Smyrna where violent crime is a constant threat, than where it isn’t.
In October of 2021, a man reportedly got into a fight at Chicago Pizza and Sports Grille and fired a gun multiple times, before crashing into several police cars while trying to escape.
Some months later, another fight escalated to a shooting at Five Points Shopping Center. This time the shooting was fatal, and the shooter successfully fled the scene, though police were later able to identify a suspect based on a license plate number.
Unlike residential landlords, commercial property owners have the legal right to ban firearms from their premises. When a specific property has an ongoing problem with gun violence, and first-line safety measures like visible security cameras and guards are not effective, establishing checkpoints with metal detectors can be an appropriate and necessary response.
Smyrna Hotels Face a Unique Combination of Safety Challenges
Almost any danger that can come up in an apartment complex or a public commercial space can also come up in a hotel. Without good policies and careful maintenance, stairs and railings can deteriorate, rooms can develop mold, fire escape routes can become obstructed, and children can fall into swimming pools.
Violence can spill in from the outside, or it can take the form of domestic disputes among guests. This happened in Smyrna in December of 2021, when a woman fatally shot her girlfriend in their shared room at InTown Suites Extended Stay Hotel and then fled the state. She later turned herself in.
On top of the shared challenges of commercial and residential property, there are also safety issues that are fairly unique to the hotel industry. Hotels can be particularly attractive to human traffickers, and to other criminals whose activities require short-term privacy. In November of 2021, a shootout between police and a guest at the Red Roof Inn on Winchester Parkway ended with the rescue of two young women believed to be human trafficking victims.
Sometimes, crime happens in hotel rooms without the management’s knowledge, but often, management will deliberately ignore crime in exchange for bribes or repeat business from the criminals.
People who are engaged in criminal enterprises like human trafficking are likely to be armed and willing to use force to avoid being caught. This means that, when hotels enable crime, they’re not only complicit in harming the intended victims. They’re also knowingly endangering other innocent guests.
Smyrna Child and Elder Care Facilities Have Allegedly Abused and Taken Advantage of Clients
When an organization assumes control over the daily minutiae of a person’s life, down to when and how the person’s basic physical needs are met, it also assumes a great deal of responsibility for that person’s wellbeing. This is true whether the control lasts for a few hours, or continues indefinitely.
For example, owners of businesses like daycare centers and healthcare facilities must actively assess and meet clients’ needs, rather than simply providing a hazard-free space. Failure to deliver consistent, adequate care in these settings is a form of negligence.
This has been a serious issue for vulnerable older adults living in Georgia. One 2013 investigation found evidence that Emeritus, a national chain of assisted living facilities, was placing pressure on its employees to “close the back door” — in other words, prevent residents from moving out before their deaths.
This kind of policy endangers residents by keeping them at the same level of care, even if their needs increase. It can also result in violent individuals remaining in group care settings where they pose a danger to others. At one Smyrna location in particular, investigators found that 15 out of the 35 residents should not have been there.
Greed and neglect aren’t the only life-threatening forces at work in care facilities either. In November of 2018, a Smyrna daycare worker was arrested for allegedly “body-slamming” a 1-year-old at Oxford Babies, causing the child to bleed from the mouth. Police say the attack was over the child refusing to nap.
Any company, regardless of whether it provides caregiving services, would be liable for an employee behaving that way.
Negligent Businesses Can Kill Without the Victim Ever Setting Foot on Company Property
So far, we’ve mostly covered landlord responsibility for accidents and violence that happen within the boundaries of a specific type of property.
However, it’s entirely possible to fall victim to a company’s negligence without ever physically visiting that company’s property.
Other common ways companies cause wrongful deaths include:
- Defective products — Manufacturers of needlessly or unexpectedly dangerous products are liable for the harm they cause. Products marketed to prevent harm, such as children’s car seats, can also be considered dangerously defective if they underperform.
- Incompetent services — Companies that visit their clients’ property, instead of the other way around, can leave deadly hazards behind. For example, maintenance companies that work on gas and electrical systems can cause fires and poisonings if their staff are not properly trained.
- Dangerous driving — Both companies and individuals can cause wrongful deaths via traffic accidents. In cases where the at-fault driver is an on-duty professional, such as a trucker, it’s the driver’s employer, rather than the individual driver, who is responsible for the damage. For more on road negligence in Smyrna, click here.
- Toxic pollution — Companies that release poisons into the environment can end up killing people far beyond their property lines. The Smyrna-based company Sterigenics is currently being sued for allegedly releasing toxic clouds of ethylene oxide. The accusations include contributing to over 300 cases of cancer in the surrounding community.
In many cases of wrongful death, there are multiple possible types of negligence, and negligent parties, involved.
For example, in 2018, an inventor died while installing a beer tap at the Atlanta Braves stadium. During the process, he became trapped inside a cooler and was exposed to high levels of carbon dioxide. The fault may lie with the stadium itself, for failing to notice and fix the problem with the cooler, but it might also lie with the manufacturer of the latch that wouldn’t open from the inside, or the maintenance company for the CO2 system.
Even if the cause of a wrongful death seems obvious at first glance, it’s important for the lawyer and the next-of-kin to consider all possible related negligence, to avoid overlooking appropriate defendants.
The Stoddard Firm Has Qualified Wrongful Death Lawyers for Smyrna Families
If you have lost a loved one in a manner you believe to be wrongful death, it’s definitely worth seeking out a qualified wrongful death lawyer to discuss the details.
In addition to expertise in wrongful death law itself, and preferably some experience with similar types of deaths, it’s helpful for your lawyer to have some familiarity with the area where the death took place. Many cities have a fairly small circle of people and organizations that end up participating over and over again in wrongful death suits, in one way or another. Already knowing where to go and who to talk to can make crucial steps, like evidence collection, quicker and easier.
For example, at The Stoddard Firm, we’ll work with the Wellstar health system and the Smyrna Police Department to get the most accurate information on exactly what happened to your loved one.
We’ll also coordinate with local funerary services, such as A.J. Casey, Sims, or Carmichael, to make sure you won’t have to choose between proving the truth and laying your loved one to rest on schedule.
To get started with a free consultation, reach out any time at 678-RESULT, or through our online chat function.