DAN HARTZOG (Raleigh) and STEPHANIE GASTON POLEY (Raleigh) successfully defended a housing authority against allegations of negligence and willful and wanton conduct. The case arose out of the wrongful death of an elderly resident of one of the housing authority properties, who was strangled to death in her apartment by a fellow resident. The deceased and the perpetrator lived on the same floor of a high-rise apartment complex designated for the elderly or disabled. While the deceased was eligible to live in the complex because of her age, the perpetrator was eligible to live in the complex because of his status as a disabled person. Issues in the case included allegations of improper screening, admission, and retention of residents by the housing authority. The Plaintiff Estate offered the testimony of multiple witnesses at trial, including residents from the high-rise apartment complex where the deceased and the perpetrator had resided, one of the police officers who responded to the deceased’s murder, the medical examiner, and three retained experts. MR. HARTZOG and MS. GASTON obtained summary judgment as to Plaintiff’s claim for punitive damages immediately before trial. After a two week jury trial, the Plaintiff asked the jury to award over $10 million in compensatory damages for funeral expenses, pain and suffering experienced by the deceased, and loss of society and companionship of the deceased to her two sons. The jury returned with a verdict of negligence against the housing authority, but only awarded the Plaintiff $132,000.
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