Ross Feller Casey Wins Major Appellate Court Victory; Trial Ordered in Wrongful Death Case against Widener University in Student Shooting Death Outside Campus Bar

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Aug. 30, 2011 - A Pennsylvania Superior Court panel today reversed a lower court ruling and ordered a trial in the wrongful death case of John Lacey, a 21-year-old student who was shot and killed outside a bar on the campus of Widener University in Chester, Delaware County eight years ago.

Attorneys representing Ann Lacey — John Lacey’s mother and administratrix of his estate — claim Widener was negligent for failing to improve safety in and around the bar, which had been the site of an armed robbery, attempted robbery and student stabbing prior to John Lacey’s May 3, 2003, murder.

“Widener knew for a long time prior to John Lacey’s campus robbery and murder that its security protocols were woefully deficient, and particularly so at a campus bar late on a weekend night in a terribly dangerous neighborhood,” said Matt Casey, a founding partner of Philadelphia-based Ross Feller Casey LLP, who argued the case before the Superior Court.

“We look forward now to presenting that case in a public way to a jury comprised of John Lacey’s fellow citizens.”

Lacey was talking on his cell phone to his girlfriend when he was accosted outside Walio's Frog Pond Café at 11:30 p.m on May 3, 2003. He was shot in the back as he attempted to flee and collapsed on the floor in the bar, The Delaware County Times reported.

Last year, a Delaware County Judge granted a summary judgment to Widener and its subsidiary, Providence Enterprises Inc., the company that owned and leased property to Walio’s at 16th Street and Providence Avenue.

However, the Superior Court overturned that today and remanded the case back to Delaware County for a trial.

In a 16-page opinion, Superior Court Judge Robert A. Freedberg said the panel disagreed with the trial court’s finding that Lacey was targeted by his assailants from the moment he left his apartment, thereby making the location of the shooting “entirely coincidental.”

“(W)e are unable to determine the basis of this conclusion,” Freedberg wrote. “Rather … the criminal complaint stated that the assailants were lurking in the parking lot when they encountered Lacey (and an eyewitness) told police the robbery and homicide took place after Lacey had purchased beer from the bar ... Given this, whether Widener’s lack of security measures was not a proximate cause of Lacey’s death is an issue for the fact finder.”


Ross Feller Casey attorneys have extensive experience in litigating Wrongful Death cases. Some of the noteworthy cases include:
•    $36.4 million settlement against Motiva for an explosion caused by a corroded tank leaking hydrogen, which resulted in the death of a boilermaker. It was one of the largest single-victim wrongful death recoveries
•    $25 million verdict for the death of a physician as a result of medical negligence.
•    $7 million settlement for the death of a woman during the delivery of her twin babies
•    $7 million recovery for a wrongful death caused by an auto defect
•    $5.5 million settlement for a woman who died as a result of the failure to diagnose cervical cancer

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