The family of Mary McNeal may have a case to file a wrongful death claim against the owners of a gas station in West Palm Beach where the 81-year-old woman was attacked during a purse-snatching robbery that occurred on January 31, 2022.
Attacker convicted by jury; sentenced to life in prison
52-year-old Wille Davis of Riviera Beach was convicted on charges of first-degree murder and robbery on Tuesday, June 6, 2023 in McNeal’s death. Palm Beach Circuit Court Judge Scott Suskauer sentenced Davis to a life term and imposed a 15-year sentence on the robbery charge. The sentences will be served concurrently.
Mary McNeal suffered head injury in attack; died days later
On the evening of January 31, 2022, Mary McNeal stopped at a gas station on the 3700 block of Broadway Boulevard in Riviera Beach. Upon exiting her car, Davis attacked McNeal in the parking lot and grabbed her purse. During the confrontation, Mary McNeal fell to the ground and hit her head. She died a few days later at St. Mary’s Medical Center in West Palm Beach, due to blunt-force injuries to the head.
According to authorities, surveillance-camera video showed Wille Davis watched Mary McNeal’s car for more than a minute before he got out of a different vehicle and followed her. McNeal fled after the attack. However, West Palm Beach Police located the vehicle Davis had been in and the driver the next day. The woman driving the vehicle said she saw Davis “holding a black bag as he ran down West 37th,” and stopped to let him back in the car. The woman said she suspected Davis had done something wrong but did not know what.
West Palm Beach Police officers arrested Davis three weeks later on unrelated charges. A woman who received calls from Davis while he was in the Palm Beach County Jail confirmed that he was the person involved in the attack on Mary McNeal.
Potential For Wrongful Death Claim
The family of Mary McNeal may have the right to pursue a negligent security wrongful death claim, against the owners and/or management of the gas station where the attack on Mary McNeal took place. Under Florida law, premises liability holds property owners or companies who lease the property responsible for injuries or damages caused by known criminal activity on their properties. Owners have a “duty of care” towards customers to protect them against dangers that they are aware of, or should have been award of at the time. If a property owner is aware of criminal activity on its property, then it can do things to protect its customers like hire security guards, install security cameras, or increase lighting.
Under Florida law, a “personal representative” may file the lawsuit and represent the estate’s heirs in the suit. Surviving spouses, adult and minor children, and parents may all be eligible to collect damages. Damages may be for both financial losses and emotional losses. It is important to note that Florida requires the following in a wrongful death suit:
- The defendant’s conduct amounted to a wrongful act, negligence default, or breach of contract or warranty.
- The conduct upon which the cause of action is based must have caused the death of the decedent(s).
Making a Negligent Security Claim
In cases involving negligent security, a claimant must additionally prove that the property owner or lessor:
- Knew there was criminal activity taking place on the property
- Failed to take reasonable actions to protect its customers
Have questions about a possible wrongful death claim? DON’T wait for an insurance company to contact you! Insurance agents and adjusters work on behalf of the insurance companies, and don’t care about YOUR loss. Call the wrongful death experts at GOLDLAW at 561-222-2222 for a COMPLIMENTARY consultation to see if you have a case!
Notice: As a personal injury law firm, we often provide legal analysis and opinion on news stories in the hope that the family and friends of the victims may gain some valuable insight into our theories of negligence based on the facts of the case. Respectfully, our thoughts are with those who have suffered a catastrophic injury or death.