The 2013 shooting death of a man who showed up for a tramp and dance party can be heard by a jury as a matter of wrongful death. This after a judge in St. Croix Superior Court rejected a motion by the University of the Virgin Islands to have a civil claim of negligence resolved from the bench.
Superior Court Judge Douglas Brady issued a memorandum and order March 20., denying the school’s motion for a summary judgement. The motion is part of a wrongful death lawsuit, involving the April 19, 2013 shooting death of John Troy Andre Joseph. Court documents say the shooting was part of an attempted robbery that took place the night UVI hosted a tramp and a party with a live band and roughly 100 off-campus guests.
Joseph was one of them. Court documents say when he returned to his car, parked near the school cafeteria, he was accosted by an armed individual who tried to snatch his chain. When Joseph resisted, he was shot.
A witness to the shooting rushed him to the hospital. By the next day, Joseph died. A lawsuit was filed by Fabia Laudat Dover, described as the victim’s personal representative. In response to the school’s motion for summary judgement, Dover’s attorney provided documents that challenged the claim that there was no evidence proving negligence.
“ Plaintiff claims UVI is liable in that its premises is poorly lighted; and that its security personnel were inadequately trained and inadequately deployed on the campus,” court documents said. To bolster the point, Dover submitted records from the school’s security log book and a survey showing a number of lights throughout the campus that didn’t work at the time of the shooting.
Lawyers for UVI also produced documents in support of the motion, including the school’s 2012 annual report. The report made mention of 7 felony-level incidents and two drug violations occurring on campus that year, but no homicides or weapons-related offenses.
In the memorandum and opinion, the judge said it would be up to the party who filed the motion to show the lawsuit was frivolous. If so, then the motion could be decided without sending the case to a jury.
“Because summary judgement is a drastic remedy, it should be granted only when the pleadings, the discovery and disclosure of materials on file, and any affidavits show there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the movant is entitled to judgement as a matter of law,” Brady said.
For that reason, he said, it will be up to a jury to decide whether there was a breach of duty to keep Joseph and other campus visitors safe on the night of fete occurred.
“It is the function of the jury at trial, and not the Court on summary judgment, to determine whether the potential harm to Troy Joseph was foreseeable, and the nature and extent of UVI’ s duty to keep its premises safe through adequate security and lighting. It is for a reasonable jury to determine whether UVI breached its duty by failing to protect persons it invited onto its property from foreseeable harm caused by potentially dangerous conditions on its premises,” Brady wrote.
Editor’s note: This has been updated to clarify and emphasize that the case is going to trial and no final decision on the merits of the case has been made.