Estate of teenager killed at party awarded $390,000 in lawsuit against landlord, security company

by John Chapman

One night in 2011, 17-year-old Billy Ray Shirley III and some friends went to a party at a “club” in Tacoma, Washington to offer someone a ride home. They stayed at the party for a while when it turned out their help wasn’t needed. At some point, a fight broke out and Shirley was fatally shot in the back as he tried to leave.

The teenager’s estate sued Bill’s Towing and Garage and Kollected Souls Security last year. The lawsuit contended Bill’s Towing improperly allowed a property it owned to be used as an illegal nightclub and that Kollected Souls did not provide adequate security at events held at the club. A motorcycle club called the Global Grinders had allegedly thrown at least two parties at the warehouse that resulted in deadly shootings. After a nearly two-week trial, a Pierce County jury awarded $390,000 in damages to the estate.

Bill’s Towing argued it was not responsible for the actions of the people who rented the property, had warned them previously to stop throwing parties there, and immediately cancelled their lease upon learning of Shirley’s death. On the other hand, lawyers for Shirley’s estate contended that Bill’s Towing should be held responsible because it knew of the illegal nightclub but did nothing to stop it and “instead simply collected profits” from renting out its space.

Inadequate Security and Negligent Security Lawsuits

Business and property owners have an obligation to provide a reasonably safe environment for their guests and customers. Generally speaking, a business or property owner is not liable for injuries or death resulting from a crime just because it was committed at their business or on their property.

However, if there was something about the crime that made it foreseeable, if there has been a pattern of such crime in the area, or if the nature of the business makes it particularly susceptible to such a crime, the law will impose a duty for the business or owner to take reasonable security measures to prevent or deter such crime. Inadequate security or negligent security lawsuits typically involve the failure of business proprietors, such as mall and shopping center operators, apartment and residential rental housing owners, hotels, motels, restaurants and others, to take reasonable security measures that should have been taken under the circumstances for the protection of their guests and customers.

If you or someone you know has been injured, or if you lost a loved one, as a result of a crime, a property owner, apartment complex, landlord, club, bar, restaurant or shopping center may be partially responsible. You need an experienced and knowledgeable law firm that can guide you through the legal process and obtain maximum compensation on your behalf. Our lawyers approach every case with the assumption it will be tried to a jury. Whether it’s hiring the right experts, obtaining the necessary records, interviewing the key witnesses or helping our clients get the medical care they need, our meticulous attention to detail ensures that our clients achieve maximum value for their claim.

In addition, Heygood, Orr & Pearson is AV-rated, the highest legal and ethical rating available from the leading law firm rating service. Our partners Michael Heygood, Jim Orr, and Eric Pearson are all Board Certified in Personal Injury Trial Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. Mr. Heygood and Mr. Orr are additionally Board Certified in Civil Trial Advocacy Law by the National Board of Trial Advocacy. Our partners been voted by their peers as “Super Lawyers” in the state of Texas for several years in a row.*

Contact our attorneys for a free consultation to learn more about your legal rights. You can reach us by calling toll-free at 1-877-446-9001, or by filling out the free case evaluation form located on this website.


Michael Heygood, James Craig Orr, Jr. and Eric Pearson were selected to the Super Lawyers List, a Thomson Reuters publication, for the years 2003 through 2014.