A wrongful death suit filed by the parents of black teenager Trayvon Martin who was shot to death by neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman has been settled, according to documents filed in a Florida court yesterday.
Trayvon Martin's parents have settled a wrongful-death claim for an amount thought to be more than $1 million against the homeowners association of the Sanford subdivision where their teenage son was killed.
Their attorney, Benjamin Crump, filed that paperwork at the Seminole County Courthouse, a portion of which was made public Friday.
In the five pages of the settlement that were available for public review, the settlement amount had been marked out. Lower in the agreement, the parties specified that they would keep that amount confidential.
When asked during an earlier interview whether the amount was more than $1 million, Crump said: "I have no comment on that subject ... I know you did not get that from me."
Trayvon was shot to death by Neighborhood Watch volunteer George Zimmerman at the Retreat at Twin Lakes townhomes in Sanford on Feb. 26, 2012. Zimmerman served as head of the Neighborhood Watch and called police that evening, describing Trayvon as suspicious. He has said the teen attacked him and he fired in self-defense.
The community-association manager, Kent Taylor, did not return phone calls from the Orlando Sentinel about the settlement. Neither did its attorney, Thomas R. Slaten Jr.
Robert Taylor is founding partner of Taylor & Carls P.A., a law firm that represents homeowner associations but has no connection to the Retreat at Twin Lakes.
"When claims are filed, they're filed against anybody who could possibly have any culpability," he said. Trayvon's parents must have concluded that Zimmerman's homeowners association did, he said, thus the claim.
In the settlement, the association did not admit any wrongdoing or liability. Taylor said its decision to settle was most likely a business decision.
"It's really nothing more than a risk-versus-reward analysis," Taylor said.
The association's insurer, Travelers Casualty and Surety Co. of America, filed suit in federal court in August, asking a judge to clarify its liability in the case, but that suit was dropped in November.
"Travelers is not a party to the settlement," the company said in a prepared statement. "The settlement would have been with other insurers of the homeowners association and/or the property managers."
The policy had a $1 million limit so it's pretty certain the settlement didn't go much beyond that.
I don't see the liability for the homeowners association either, unless the neighborhood watch was organized under its auspices. Even then, Zimmerman was clearly acting on his own accord and if he is found to have acted in self defense, it makes Martin's "wrongful death" claim pretty hollow.
The Martin's attorney made it clear that they plan to sue Zimmerman, who was not part of the suit, later.
Should Martin's parents have filed the suit? They might have waited until the trial was over but then, if Zimmerman is found not guilty, they have very little standing. From the point of view of the homeowners association, it was better to settle now rather than wait for the outcome of the trial when there was a chance that the amount of any settlement would have been substantially higher if Zimmerman were found guilty.