Decatur, GA—Jurors awarded a total of $3.5 million earlier this month to a pair of Georgia women shot outside a Stone Mountain-area nightclub. Canaday v. Jay’s Place Sports Bar & Lounge, Inc., 13-A47164-3, Johnson v. Jay’s Place Sports Bar & Lounge, Inc., 13-A-47165-3.
Syria Canaday was shot in the stomach and Temika Johnson was hit in the shoulder and hip outside of Jay’s Place, a night club and sports bar on Redan Road in Stone Mountain, during a late-night shooting in September 2012.
The pair claim that they, along with other patrons, had been forced out of the club section of the location after a fight involving two other guests occurred, and they were shot as they fled to the neighboring sports bar-half of the establishment.
The DeKalb County State Court jury handed down its verdict August 18, holding Jay’s Place largely responsible for the shooting. Jurors awarded Canaday, who was hospitalized for more than a month, more than $1.8 million, and Johnson more than $1.6 million in a consolidated trial for the two plaintiffs.
However, jurors declined to award punitive damages in the case and apportioned 30% of responsibility for the incident to the unidentified shooter, who remains at-large. That finding likely reduces Canaday’s post-verdict award to about $1.26 million and Johnson’s to about $1.12 million.
The Cochran Firm’s Mecca Anderson requested about $3.5 million in total compensatories for the pair during closing arguments the day before the verdict, including more than $1.4 million for each plaintiff's future pain and suffering.
The four-day trial turned on whether Jay’s Place met its duty to Canaday and Johnson and what relationship, if any, the shooting had to the fight inside the club.
During closing arguments, Jay’s Place’s attorney, Tanya Mitchell Graham, from the Law Offices of Tanya Mitchell Graham, highlighted the lack of evidence tying the shooter to either the club or the earlier fight. “Nobody knows who [the shooter] was,” Graham said. “We’re making a whole bunch of assumptions, and liability is not established on assumption.”
Graham noted that Jay’s Place personnel denied they forced Canaday or Johnson from the club because of the fight. She also argued the establishment, which had a history of fisticuffs but never a shooting in more than a decade before the incident, kept private security staff and a police officer on the premises, while lease provisions required the club’s landlord to control and manage common areas outside.
However, attorneys for the plaintiffs argued Canaday and Johnson were shot because the club violated its own security protocol in failing to detain the fight’s instigator, and then compounded that error by forcing patrons outside. “They did not follow their own policies, and because of that, a shooting occurred,” The Cochran Firm’s Omari Crawford told jurors.
Anderson agreed and, in plaintiff’s rebuttal argument, urged jurors not to be swayed by lease agreement provisions she called a red herring. “Security is not optional when you attact a dangerous condition,” she said, noting the club’s prior fights. “That’s when the duty arises.”
Anderson also criticized Jay’s Place employees who testified about their history of following procedures. “I’m sure they do, because this was the only time they didn’t follow their policies and procedures," Anderson said. “And guess what happened?”
CVN has reached out to attorneys from both sides and will update this article with their comments as they are available.
Email Arlin Crisco at [email protected]
Syria Canaday and Temika Johnson are represented by The Cochran Firm's Mecca Anderson, Omari Crawford, and Peter Brogdon.
Jay's Place is represented by Tanya Mitchell Graham, of The Law Offices of Tanya Mitchell Graham, as well as by Demetrius Price and Kiarra Brown.
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