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Georgia Supreme Court Says CVS Can Be Held Liable for Shooting on Premises Even if Assailant is Not

A Georgia Supreme Court decision arising from a shooting in a CVS parking lot affirmed a decision apportioning 95 percent liability to the company and 5 percent to the victim. The pharmacy chain had argued that it could not be legally at fault if the jury assigned no liability to the actual shooter. 

Georgia CVS Pharmacy, LLC v. Carmichael stands as a significant decision in the state’s approach to premises liability law. James Carmichael, the victim of the robbery, sued CVS, alleging that the pharmaceutical retailer had failed to implement adequate security measures to protect its patrons at that Atlanta location. During the trial, testimony from current and former employees shed light on the unsafe conditions of the store’s premises. Situated in a high-crime area, the parking lot was a cause for concern among employees and customers alike. Witnesses recounted instances of employees escorting each other to their cars and voiced apprehension due to inadequate lighting in the parking lot.

Critical to the case was testimony from a CVS supervisor, who revealed that security guards had previously been employed at the store. However, CVS discontinued their services, despite objections from employees, presumably as a cost-saving measure. Expert witnesses emphasized the deterrent effect of armed security and criticized the inconsistent lighting in the parking lot, suggesting that better security measures could have prevented the robbery.

The jury’s verdict assigned the majority of fault, 95 percent, to CVS, highlighting the company’s responsibility to ensure the safety of its premises. Carmichael was found to bear only 5 percent fault, with no fault assigned to other parties involved. The substantial damages awarded to Carmichael, totaling $42,750,000, reflected the jury’s acknowledgment of CVS’s significant liability in the incident. Upon appeal, the Georgia Supreme Court rejected the company’s attempt to avoid paying damages based on their contention that they should only have to pay damages if the shooter himself was found liable in the personal injury action. 

This decision serves as a reminder of the legal obligation of property owners to prioritize the safety and well-being of their patrons and employees. If you operate a business in an area where criminal activity is reasonably foreseeable, it might be necessary to conduct a thorough review to assess if security measures are required to reduce the likelihood of a substantial premises liability verdict against you. 

In the event that someone claims to have suffered an injury due to crime or another unsafe condition on your premises, your next step should be to hire an experienced business litigation attorney. The Reddy Law Form, P.C. in Alpharetta handles a wide range of legal actions on behalf of Georgia companies. Please call 678-629-3246 or contact us online for a consultation.

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