On the weekend of May 12, Johnson & Groninger PLLC and Trehy Safety Law were putting the finishing touches on 7 years of litigation and preparing for trial in Campbell vs. CEV Greensboro. Motions were heard, jurors were called, and trial was set to begin first thing Monday, May 15.
Background of Campbell vs. CEV Greensboro
The case arose out of CEV’s reckless security failures that led to the shooting deaths of two college students – Ahmad Campbell and Alisia Dieudonne.
CEV owned and operated student apartment complexes around the country, including Greensboro, where apartments were rented mostly to A&T University students. CEV was aware of frequent violent crime in the area and throughout the complex and failed to take appropriate measures to keep the property safe.
Lax security leads to tragedy
In August, despite ongoing crime, CEV cut back on its security at the complex. On October 1, the two students, unknown to each other, were invited to a party at the complex. Uninvited trespassers, who were not students, attempted to get into the party. They were turned away and unhappy about it, looking for a fight. Before leaving the property, the trespassers shot toward the apartment; bullets went through the outside wall and into a bedroom where the students were hiding, and killed Ahmad and Alisia.
CEV Greensboro agrees to settle
The week before trial, after The Honorable Lora C. Cubbage made some critical motions rulings, CEV’s representatives finally engaged in serious settlement discussions. While the firm’s staff organized trial exhibits, the lead lawyers on the case, Valerie Johnson and Jay Trehy, negotiated.
The case settled on Sunday for $6,000,000.00, or $3 million for each estate. It was tragically ironic that the case settled on Mother’s Day, a reminder to the mothers of both students of their life-changing losses.
Often the terms of settlement agreement include a confidentiality provision, which prevents the parties from talking about the settlement, and sometimes even the facts of the case. In this case, however, the parents insisted (and the lawyers agreed) that they should be allowed to spread the word about what happened to their children, to help keep future tragedies like this from happening, and to send a message to student apartment management companies that they need to do better.
Lessons to be learned from this tragic case
Ahmad and Alisia’s parents want everyone to know how important it is to check the safety history of a complex before renting an apartment. This is not always easy, because apartment management companies, like CEV, make promises about safety, without the security to back up their promises. Parents and students can take the following steps, however:
- Carefully review the lease to see whether it includes any specific security promises. Promises in promotional materials about security are not binding, but the lease is.
- Also check what provisions the lease has for changing apartments or removal of roommates who are involved in criminal activity or behave in other ways that make the apartment unlivable (ie. excessive noise, lack of cleanliness)
- Ask the local police department for crime statistics at the complex and in the area.
- Ask questions: is the complex fenced and gated, is there a security guard at the gate? Is there private security to patrol the premises? Are there monitored video cameras? How often is the outdoor lighting checked and is it sufficient? Not all measures are necessary in every situation; higher crime areas require greater caution.
- Visit the area at night, when school is in session. Massive parties may lead to crime and are a sign that the management is turning a blind eye to prohibited conduct.
If you have questions about the case or other ways to ensure the complex you live in is safe, please contact the lawyers at Johnson & Groninger PLLC at 919-568-1323.