The family of a man who was shot in the back as he was trying to escape a raucous nightclub has agreed to a $155,000 settlement with the American Legion post where the club was located.
Attorney fees make up 40 percent of the settlement, $62,000, and the victim’s daughter will receive 43 percent, $66,000, according to documents filed in DeKalb County State Court on Dec. 20. The remaining $27,000 will pay for funeral expenses, mediation fees and other costs.
Going to trial would have been risky because a jury could have apportioned most of the fault to the unnamed shooter—who was never apprehended—instead of the nightclub, said Sparticus Heyward, who represented the child’s mother, Takita English.
“She really wanted [the defendant] to accept some responsibility. She’s happy that her daughter will pretty much have a trust fund and be able to go to college,” Heyward said. “It should’ve been a lot more.”
Defense attorneys Sun Choy and Jacob Daly of Freeman Mathis & Gary didn’t return phone messages seeking comment.
Of the $66,000 for the daughter, $51,000 will go to an annuity projected to grow to $93,000 by the time she’s able to begin collecting payments at age 18, according to court documents. The other $15,000 goes to English to support the child.
The girl wasn’t born until five months after her father, 25-year-old Demetrius Holt, died Dec. 7, 2008, at American Legion Post No. 574 in northwest Atlanta on Joseph E. Boone Boulevard.
The operators of the nightclub, Larry Edwards and Adrian Abercrombie, failed to provide adequate security in a dangerous part of town, hiring “guys from the neighborhood” as guards and installing a walk-through metal detector that didn’t work, according to the plaintiffs’ portion of the pretrial order.
The club chained and locked emergency doors so that patrons couldn’t enter the club without paying, which prevented Holt from escaping, the pretrial order said. It also said that women were let into the club in exchange for sex, and security workers granted entry to people they knew and to people who paid not to be searched.
“Plaintiffs believe the Legion’s security was nothing more than a sham, a ruse intended to give the appearance of safety so the Legion officers could continue to have club patron customers, and make money, and get sex from women and girls wanting to enter their nightclub,” the pretrial order said.
The defense portion of the pretrial order said that the metal detector worked and that its security included three or four guards outside the main entrance, two people inside the main entrance, six bouncers patrolling the nightclub and two men in the parking lot.
“Defendant denies that it is liable for Holt’s murder because it did not owe him a legal duty under the circumstances of this case, it did not breach any such duty if one was owed, Holt’s murder was not reasonably foreseeable, and its conduct was not the cause in fact or the proximate cause of Holt’s murder,” the pretrial order said.
The killing occurred after someone set off fireworks in the back of the club as a distraction while the shooter took aim at Holt, Heyward said. Holt couldn’t escape through the locked emergency exits, and he bled to death on the American Legion’s ballroom floor.
Holt and the shooter had gotten into an argument a couple of weeks before he was killed, Heyward said.
Even though Holt was only 25 when he was killed, the monetary value of his life would have been relatively low because he was an unemployed aspiring rapper, Heyward said.
An economist valued Holt’s life at about $900,000, based on a calculation of his earning minimum wage with small periodic increases, but it would have been difficult to obtain that full amount at trial, Heyward said.
The other lawyers for the plaintiffs listed on the settlement before State Court Judge Alvin Wong were Boris Ramsey and Michael Norman of Ramsey & Norman and Atlanta attorney Robert Jackson, all of whom represented Wanda Harris, Holt’s mother and the administrator of his estate. They didn’t return calls seeking comment.
The case is Harris v. Charles R. Milton Post #574 American Legion, No. 09A01290.