$7.5 Million Verdict Against Owner of Gainesville Car Wash Following Fatal Shooting: Lawsuit Claims Negligence in High-Crime Area

Gainesville, Florida – A jury in Alachua County has delivered a verdict of $7.5 million against the owner of Swamp Car Wash, where a 24-year-old man was shot and killed in May 2021. The lawsuit was filed in March 2022 against Kokomo Key Properties Inc., the company doing business as Swamp Car Wash. The victim, Bobby Hopkins, called 911 to report being shot in the chest, but tragically succumbed to his injuries at UF Health Shands Hospital.

The lawsuit, brought by Lonetta Carter on behalf of Hopkins’ two minor children, argued that Swamp Car Wash should have taken precautions to protect its customers in a high-crime area. The Haggard Law Firm, representing Carter, claimed that prior acts of violence in the area demonstrated the need for improved security measures at the car wash.

According to Douglas McCarron, a partner with The Haggard Law Firm, a security expert hired to assess the property recommended the installation of security cameras, fencing, and a gate, all of which have since been implemented.

In its defense, Kokomo Key Properties asserted that Hopkins was engaged in dangerous criminal activities on the premises, thus assuming the risk involved. However, there was no evidence to support this claim, as McCarron pointed out that Hopkins was simply washing his car at the time of the incident.

The jury found Swamp Car Wash 75% responsible for Hopkins’ death, with the remaining 25% attributed to Hopkins himself. As a result, damages of $3.75 million were awarded to each of Hopkins’ children, in addition to $9,000 for funeral expenses.

Besides the civil case, criminal charges were also filed in connection with Hopkins’ death. Eugene Javon Patrick, 24, was subsequently found guilty of second-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison.

This verdict serves as a reminder of the importance of security measures in high-crime areas and the potential consequences faced by businesses that fail to prioritize the safety of their customers.