ALBANY — After nearly five hours of deliberations, a Dougherty Superior Court jury awarded $15.2 million to the parents of LaShelton Kernard Stanford in a wrongful death lawsuit in which Cheryl Stanford and Willie Foster contended the city of Albany should have shut down the business where their son was shot and killed in 2010.
LaShelton Stanford was fatally shot after a fight broke out at Brick House Productions studio on Schilling Avenue during the early morning hours of Feb. 14, 2010. Shortly after his death, city officials closed the business.
According to police reports, from December of 2007 until Stanford’s death, Brick House had more then 30 incidents of aggravated assault, armed robbery, weapons violations, narcotics violations and other crimes at a place that billed itself as a movie/motion picture business/studio. Incidents included six aggravated assaults with firearms, two aggravated assaults with other weapons, a battery, a burglary, disorderly conduct, three entering autos, two liquor law violations, three narcotics violations, a robbery with a firearm, two simple batteries, five wanted persons on premise and another weapon violation.
The law firm of Adams, Jordan and Herrington represented the family of LaShelton Stanford. Dougherty County Chief Superior Court Judge Willie Lockette presided over the case.
“This was a hard-fought case and, to our knowledge, it is the first time that a local government has been held liable for a wrongful death based on a nuisance,” said plaintiff’s attorney Virgil Adams. “I think in this case the jury found without question that this place was a nuisance. The city of Albany knew it was. It had over 40 incidents of violence, assaults and shootings for years all with the knowledge of the city.
“They (the city) started in 2008 to revoke the license of this place, because it was licensed as a recording studio, but they (the business) were actually running a night club, but did not have an alcohol license. The city did two raids out there in February of ‘08 and found alcohol, drugs and weapons along with convicted felons. There was underage drinking, sex in the place, but they never revoked the license, because the city claimed the D.A. was trying to do an undercover operation on the owners out there and some of other individuals. If they would have closed that place down, it would have saved LaShelton Stanford’s life.”
Around 2:45 p.m. Wednesday, the jury presented its verdict to the court in the civil case.
“Counselors it appears that upon review by the court that all of the particulars required to complete verdict have been completed,” Lockette said, reading the verdict. “On issue number one, no, LaShelton Stanford was not at fault. Issue number two, we, the jury, find in favor of claims in the following amounts, $5.2 million wrongful death claim for full value of life for LaShelton Stanford; $10 million, estate claim, pain and suffering of LaShelton Stanford and funeral expenses.”
Lockette went on reading the verdict in which percentages of responsibility were decided.
“Issue number three, the apportionment of fault among the parties and non-parties is as follows,” read Lockette. “LaShelton Stanford, zero; city of Albany, 70 percent; Daniel Loving, 5 percent; Molly Loving, 5 percent; Anthony Hawkins, 1 percent; Lawrence Stephens, 1 percent; Shenard Smith, 13 percent; Antonio Seay, 1 percent; Shacoby Seay, 1 percent; Shuntavious Seay, 1 percent; Cavoris Barney, 1 percent, and Jacory butts, 1 percent, for a 100 percent total.”
Adams said he felt the verdict was appropriate with the city being the entity mostly responsible for Stanford’s death.
“By allowing this place to continue to operate, the jury looked at it as Albany was the one that set this in motion. Here is the argument we gave to the jury,” Adams said. “Criminals do what criminals do. If you put a fox in the hen house and the fox does what foxes do and kills the chickens, don’t blame the fox.
“So the city of Albany had all this knowledge, they clearly had knowledge that this place was dangerous, there were shootings, drugs in the place, sex on the dance floor, they did not have an alcohol license, they searched it on multiple occasions finding this stuff and yet they sat by and did not revoke the license until two weeks after this kid was killed.”