Emmy Pasternak, LRIS Outreach and Case Development Manager
In 2012, a distraught mother contacted the Lawyer Referral and Information Service (LRIS) seeking an attorney for a wrongful death lawsuit.
A gathering to mourn the loss of one teenager due to gang violence became the tragic scene of yet another violent exchange of gunfire. When the legal interviewer carefully probed for further information it was revealed that the incident had occurred two years prior. Knowing that this could be a barrier to an attorney accepting the case the interviewer quickly contacted an LRIS attorney.
With just days to spare before the Statute of Limitations expired, LRIS Personal Injury, Business, Real Estate, and Labor Relations attorney Ryan Vlasak filed a wrongful death lawsuit listing the housing management company and the security company at fault for the young woman’s death.
This was a wrongful death case in which a 19-year old woman was attending a candlelight vigil at an apartment complex in West Oakland when she was gunned down by non-resident assailants who accessed what was supposed to be a secure, gated property. The assailants shot wildly into the crowd; an apparent act of random violence or targeted turf war. The gunmen were never caught or prosecuted. The young woman was visiting her aunt, who lived at the premises, prior to attending the vigil for a classmate who had been killed weeks before across town.
The decedent’s mother filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the owners of the property, the management company, and the security company hired to monitor and patrol the apartment complex where the shooting occurred. The lawsuit alleged that the defendants were negligent in failing to secure the premises against trespass by the shooters and in failing to disperse the vigil, which lasted close to midnight contrary to defendants’ own policies against congregating on the premises after hours.
The defendants denied liability and maintained that the crowd refused to disperse upon instruction. They maintained the Oakland Police Department had been notified of the vigil and of prior shootings in the neighborhood but refused to intervene. The defendants pointed the blame finger at one another, at the Oakland Police Department, and at the decedent.
Vlasak and his team produced a compelling ten-minute video detailing the life of the decedent and the negligence of the property management and security companies to bolster their case. Through mediation the case settled globally for $625,000 one week before jury trial, and allowed the decedent’s mother the opportunity to better the living conditions and futures of her remaining children.
For information on how to join LRIS, download panel applications, and view attorney testimonials, visit www.sfbar.org/lawyerreferrals/att.aspx.
You may also contact LRIS Membership Coordinator, Yvonne Ng, at 415-782-8951 or email@example.com for direct service. LRIS is a revenue generating program, the proceeds of which help to support BASF’s charitable programs.