This week, a Florida attorney announced a new lawsuit on behalf of victims in the 2016 Orlando nightclub shooting. The collective lawsuit represents around 50 survivors and family members of those who were killed. The shooting occurred at Orlando’s Pulse nightclub last summer.
The shooting made national headlines as the worse mass shooting in recent history and it drew particular outrage because it seemed targeted at the gay nightclub. There were 49 people murdered and dozens that were injured. The lawsuit seeks damages, claiming negligence, wrongful death, and multiple other counts. The named defendants in the case are shooter Omar Mateen’s wife and his employer.
Attorney Antonio Romanucci is representing the victims in the lawsuit. He told the press that Mateen was working for G4S, an international security company at the time of the shooting. The company knew that Mateen was mentally unstable and still permitted him to carry a gun on the job. He would not have had a firearm license otherwise. “Mateen gave out so many warnings that someone should have reigned this guy in,” Romanucci said. “They should have said, ‘You are not stable. You shouldn’t have a weapon.’”
Mateen’s wife, Noor Salman, is also being sued. Romanucci said that she knew her husband intended to go to the nightclub and commit murder. Salman is already facing federal harges of aiding and abetting and is in jail, awaiting trial. Prosecutors said the woman went with her husband as he cased various locations and planned a terrorist attack. “Rather than warn authorities, she kept it a secret and acted as his accomplice,” Romanucci explained.
In other similar cases, lawsuits have been unsuccessful. Someone attempted to sue the manufacturer of a gun that was used in the Connecticut Sandy Hook shooting, but a judge dismissed the case, citing federal laws that shield gun makers from lawsuits related to criminal use of their firearms. Romanucci believes that suing the employer will be a better option because there are no federal laws that could prevent the lawsuit from proceeding.
A law professor from the University of Connecticut, Sachin Pandya, said attorneys will still have to find specific evidence that places fault with the employer. “You still have to show that what the employer failed to do caused the mass shooting.”
There have been other lawsuits related to the Pulse shooting. Families of three victims have previously sued Facebook, Twitter, and Google, making claims that Mateen carried out the attacks after turning radical through propaganda found on the social media platforms.
Adam Winkler, a law professor at UCLA, said that the lawsuit could be an uphill battle. They will have to not only prove that the employer was directly responsible for the shooting, but also that the wife was a co-conspirator and that by failing to report the attacks, she actually directly caused the deaths and injuries of the named victims.
Christopher Ligori, a personal injury attorney in Tampa, said the case will be difficult, but it could pan out well for victims and their families. “When you have victims of violent crimes, sometimes personal injury and wrongful death lawsuits are the best ways to seek some form of justice.”