Wrongful Death claim against Riviera Beach VA Hospital
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Family of murder victim may have case for Wrongful Death/Negligent Security claim against Riviera Beach VA Hospital

Veterans Administration, VA Hospital, negligent security, inadequate security, wrongful death, Riviera Beach, veterans, Florida, GOLDLAW,

The family of a veteran who was recently murdered at the VA Medical Center in Riviera Beach may have a case for a wrongful death due to negligent security claim.

Suspected killer Christopher James Schweikart leaves Bible, hand-written note

On the morning of Saturday, March 16, nurses at the Veterans Administration Hospital located on Blue Heron Boulevard in Riviera Beach found a psychiatric-care patient dead in a bathroom. According to a report by investigators, the deceased mans roommate, 33-year-old Christopher James Schweikart, admitted to killing the victim whose name has not been released, and left a Bible and hand-written note on the floor of their room.

“God, I have lived a good life. Take me home,” said the note. Federal agents found handwriting that matched the note in another Bible left on a table in the room. According to a nurse at the scene, after the body was discovered, Schweikart said, “I just want to die. I want to die so bad. I killed the guy. I put my hands around his neck. He wanted to die.”

VA Investigators looking for motive, answers

Agents with the Department of Veterans Affairs arrived later on Saturday to interview the suspect. Schweikart told the investigators the victim was talking about Vietnam before Schweikart followed him into the bathroom and strangled him with both hands. A nurse said Schweikart told her that “when the victim had no more life in him,” the suspect positioned the body on the toilet “so it would not look so obvious.” Then Schweikart returned to bed.

Investigators are looking into life of Schweikart

Although his place of residence if not indicated in court documents, public records show that Schweikart has family living in Palm Beach County. During a court appearance on Tuesday, March 19, U.S. District Judge William Matthewman denied bail for Schweikart and granted his request for an attorney. He has been charged with pre-meditated first-degree murder. If convicted, he could face a sentence ranging from life in prison to the death penalty. With respect to the incident, the VA released this statement:

“We are deeply saddened by the death of a veteran at our facility on March 16. Our thoughts and condolences are with the veteran’s loved ones.”

According to VA Press Secretary Terrence Hayes, “We immediately notified the Office of the Inspector General of this tragic incident and are fully cooperating with the investigation.

Prior incidents question VA facility security

In 2019, Sgt. Brieux Dash died at the VA Medical Center after committing self-murder. Diagnosed with PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) after serving two tours in Iraq, Sgt. Dash killed himself by hanging on March 14, 2019, after he was involuntarily committed to the facility following a prior suicide attempt.

An investigation by the Office of Inspector General for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs concluded that Dash “received reasonable care” from the hospital’s medical staff. But, it also found that several security cameras were not functioning properly in the unit where Dash died, and that more than half of the employees working there had not completed required training. According to a report, the security cameras in the unit where Dash lived had been out of operation for at least three years due to inadequate computer-network capabilities. Multiple wrongful death cases were filed on behalf of Sgt. Dash’s widow, Emma, and his estate. In July, 2023, the family reached a $5.75M settlement with the VA.

Does victim’s family have the right to file a Wrongful Death claim based on Negligent/Inadequate Security?

To prove negligent security claim in Florida, the family of a victim needs to prove the following:

  1. The property owner owed the victim a duty of care.
  2. The property owner breached their duty.
  3. Injuries/death came as a result of the breach of duty.
  4. Injuries sustained were reasonably foreseeable under the circumstances.

Although the condition of existing security measures at the Riviera Beach VA Hospital are not known, it is reasonable to think they should have been up to par, especially since the 2019 suicide incident that claimed the life of Sgt. Dash. It’s also important to note that the murder that Christopher James Schweikart is charged with occurred in the hospital’s psychiatric unit. Because of the potential volatility of patients housed in a mental health ward, it may be reasonable to think that dangers to patients in this environment would be foreseeable, meaning that the property owner has to take even more measures to prevent against those dangers. Only a thorough investigation will determine this.

Damages that could be claimed by the family of the victim

In Florida, in the case of an injury/death resulting from negligent/inadequate security, two types of damages can be recovered:

  • Economic damages: these are the more measurable losses that an individual/family will likely incur due to the injury, recovery, and any disability the victim suffers as a result of the incident, including:
    • Medical bills
    • Lost income/wages
    • Funeral costs
    • Property damage expenses
    • Out of pocket expenses
  • Non-economic damages: these are the less calculable losses negligent security victims will likely incur, including:
    • Physical and emotional pain
    • Loss of quality of life
    • Loss of companionship

Why confer with GOLDLAW in the case of injury/death due to Negligent Security?

An injury that is the result of inadequate security/premises liability can have a serious impact on your life or the life of a loved one. If a property owner fails to secure their premises, they may be liable for any death or bodily injury that takes place because of their negligence. If you or someone you love has been injured due to the negligence of a property owner, turn to the team at GOLDLAW today! We have the resources needed to handle the entirety of your claim, including negotiations with insurance companies and the personal injury trial process.

We want to help you secure the compensation you are entitled to. Call GOLDLAW at 561-222-2222 for a COMPLIMENTARY consultation to see if you have a case for monetary damages.