Commitment Precision & Results - Jacksonville, Florida

Murdered Marine's family awarded $1.8 million

By Paul Pinkham
Story updated at 6:15 AM on Wednesday, Sep. 23, 2009

The family of a murdered Marine was awarded $1.83 million in damages Tuesday night by a Jacksonville jury, which then took the unusual step of telling the family how it hoped the money would be used.

Jurors deliberated seven hours after a week-long trial before finding that negligence by owners of an Arlington gas station where Lance Cpl. Tim Stamper died was a cause of his 2002 murder.

They awarded Stamper’s parents $1.8 million and his brother $30,000. Then forewoman Angela Nash asked permission to read a statement on behalf of her five fellow jurors. Circuit Judge L. Haldane Taylor reviewed the statement with lawyers on both sides of the case before allowing it.

“We recognize that nothing will bring back your son, but we do hope that you can use this money to honor his life and memory,” the statement read. “And we wish you the best.”

Jay Plotkin, one of the family’s attorneys, said he had never had a jury address a victim’s family in 25 years of practicing law.

“That’s a tribute to Tim and what a fine family the Stampers are,” Plotkin said. The family declined comment but said through Plotkin they are grateful the lengthy litigation was finally over.

Woods Petroleum attorney William Corley said no decision has been made about an appeal.

Stamper, 18, was home on leave from Hawaii when he was killed in a drive-by shooting after attending his girlfriend’s graduation party at nearby Club Evolution off Arlington Expressway. After the club closed, a huge crowd gathered in the Amoco parking lot, and several clubgoers looted the store before Stamper was shot.

He had tangled with his killer at the party, lawyers said. Three men were convicted and sentenced in 2003 to lengthy prison terms.

Stamper’s parents, Willie and Vivian Stamper, and his brother, Tremayne, who was injured in the shooting, sued in 2004.

In closing arguments Tuesday, lawyers for the Stampers said Woods Petroleum was negligent because the lone employee didn’t call police until the shooting despite a huge crowd of clubgoers in the parking lot and two looting episodes minutes before the murder.

“This was a mob. This was a riot. This was chaotic. This was a company that did nothing to stop it,” Plotkin argued.

Plotkin said Woods didn’t provide adequate security or training. There were no cameras trained on the rear parking lot, and Woods made no effort to learn about the high crime rate in the neighborhood or the troubled history of Club Evolution, since closed by police.

“This was a recipe for disaster that started long before that night,” Plotkin said.
Co-counsel Aaron Metcalf  told jurors appropriate judgments would be $5 million for Stamper’s parents and $1 million for his brother.

But Corley contended the company wasn’t liable at all. He said a call to police wouldn’t have deterred the shooters, high on drugs and bent on revenge for the earlier fight at Evolution. He reminded jurors that one witness, the killer’s brother, said they heard just before the drive-by shooting that police were en route and his brother fired anyway.

He also maintained the victim could have left after stopping at the Amoco to buy gas.

Corley argued that Woods couldn’t have foreseen the murder any more than the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office did, despite having a full-time officer evaluating crime patterns in the neighborhood. He said no other businesses in the area had extra security on Wednesday nights, when the murder occurred.

Corley asked jurors, “How can you train for a murder that happens in 6 seconds?”

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