A Macon law firm won an unusual case against the city of Albany after jurors decided that a nightclub where a man was shot to death should have been closed because it was a nuisance.
A jury returned a $15.2 million award for the family of LeSheldon Stanford last week against the city of Albany, the owners of Brick City and those involved in the 2010 slaying of the 20-year-old. Attorney Virgil Adams, a partner with Adams, Jordan & Herrington in Macon, said the city was sued based on nuisance principles.
The recording studio was actually operating as nightclub and gang hangout, he said.
“This place was a nuisance and (city leaders) knew it because there was a lot of violent behavior and complaints, and (officials) refused to shut it down,” Adams said. “To our knowledge, this is the first time a local government has been held responsible for a death based on a nuisance theory.”
The finding against Albany was for $10.5 million, while the other $4.7 million is to split among other parties.
The city plans to appeal the judgment. Albany is not legally responsible for what happened at the privately owned business, City Attorney Nathan Davis said.
The trial ended Wednesday.
“The bottom line is the city didn’t breach any legal duty it owed,” Davis said.
Brick City’s history dated back to 2007 when Molly and Daniel Loving opened a recording studio that also was licensed to hold listening events, when new music was released. Soon after opening, authorities responded to reports of crime taking place at the business, and in early 2008 a raid uncovered underage drinking, drugs, weapons and alcohol being served without a permit, Adams said.
Following a second raid that year, he said, the City Council did not revoke the business license, saying that authorities wanted to run an undercover operation there.
There were about 40 reports of shootings, aggravated assaults, robberies and other crimes at Brick City up until Stanford’s death in 2010, said Adams, a former attorney for Bibb County.
Stanford was visiting family members in February 2010 when they decided to go out for a night on the town. Stanford ended up at Brick City without knowing its reputation, Adams said, and he was assaulted by a large group of people and shot six times by Shenard Smith.
The city shut down the club after Stanford’s death.
In Macon, high profile murders have taken place at nightclubs in recent years — Wings Cafe and Zodiac Lounge — and in both cases lawsuits were filed against the owners. Last year, the Wings Cafe’s owner reached a settlement with the widow of a man killed in the shootout there.