GOLDLAW litigation attorney Rafael Roca secured a rare and impressive legal victory this month against an apartment complex in Wellington, Florida. The case centered around the tragic death of 17-year old Dalton Dobkins, who was killed while he slept in his bed during the commission of a home invasion, on the morning of November 30, 2016.
In the middle of the night on November 30, 18-year old Joel Rodriguez, and his 20-year old half-brother, Augustine Rivera, were casing the Estates at Wellington Green, looking for apartments to break into. They accessed the premises by driving their vehicle through an inoperable gate/arm. In an interview with plaintiff’s counsel, Rivera confirmed that the property was selected because of the open gates and lack of security. He stated that “if the gates had been down and closed we would have gone elsewhere.” After gaining access to the property, the assailants walked around the development burglarizing vehicles. This continued until Joel Rodriguez discovered an unlocked window at the Dobkins’ residence, and entered the apartment as Rivera served as a lookout outside the home.
Motive for Shooting Unknown
Believing the apartment to be unoccupied, Rodriguez admitted to crawling through the open window in order to rob the residence. Startled when Dobkins suddenly woke up, Rodriguez told the victim, “Get back or I’ll shoot your ass,” then shot him twice in the chest, according to Assistant State Attorney Reid Scott. Dalton Dobkins died in his father’s arms soon after. His 10-year old sister, and his father’s girlfriend were also in the house sleeping during the incident.
Lawsuit Maintains Apartment Complex Failed in Duty to Keep Residents Safe
GOLDLAW brought a Negligent Security lawsuit on behalf of the Dobkins family in 2018. The action claimed SCG Atlas Wellington LLC, the owners of the complex, and Pinnacle Property Management, the company managing the complex at the time of Dobkin’s death, failed to maintain proper security of the property. The parties had been requested to fix the broken gate/arm by numerous residents on multiple occasions, but those requests always fell on deaf ears.
Negligent Security Led to an Unnecessary Death
If the apartment complex had lived up to its duty to protect residents by just fixing the gate/arm as requested, Dalton Dobkins would still be alive, according the lawsuit brought by GOLDLAW. In a hearing before the main trial, the judge found that the negligence was so egregious that it rose to a level of recklessness, which entitles the Dobkins family to punitive damages. Extremely rare in this type of case, it will allow not only for damages for the loss of their son and brother, but also damages meant to punish the defendants due to their reckless disregard for the lives of their tenants, and dissuade other businesses from making the same mistakes.
Potential For a Massive Verdict
As the case proceeds, there looms the risk of an extremely large verdict against the corporate ownership and management of the Estates at Wellington Green, as well as their liability insurance company. GOLDLAW will continue to pursue the maximum compensation possible for the Dobkins family, as we seek to obtain justice for this reckless disregard of resident safety.