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Judge dismisses wrongful death suit against Kroger

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A federal judge has dismissed a wrongful death lawsuit brought against Kroger Co. by the mother of an Indianapolis man who was fatally shot in 2011 by a store manager during what police determined was an attempted robbery.

Judge Tanya Walton Pratt of the U.S. District Court, Southern District of Indiana, dismissed the suit Wednesday, ruling that the Cincinnati-based supermarket chain could not be held accountable for the death of Jeremi Atkinson.

Toni Atkinson filed the suit in July 2012 on behalf of her son, who was 26 when he was shot Dec. 26, 2011, at the Kroger store at 5025 W. 71st St.

The suit charged that Kroger was negligent for failing to supervise its employees and enforce its safety polices, which prohibit employees from carrying firearms while on duty.

But the judge disagreed, siding with Kroger’s argument that it had no legal obligation to institute or enforce the policy that store manager Elijah “Levi” Elliott didn't follow.

“Mr. Elliott secretly carried a concealed gun without Kroger’s consent, and testified that he used the gun in self-defense for his own protection,” Walton Pratt wrote in her decision. “Simply put, there is no record of evidence that Kroger willfully and wantonly caused harm to Mr. Atkinson.”

Kroger spokesman John Elliott said the company is pleased with the decision.

“The Kroger Co. places the highest possible priority on the safety of our associates and our customers,” Elliott said in an email. “We invest heavily in a variety of security systems and procedures in our stores. Kroger cooperated fully with all legal proceedings related to the original police investigation and the subsequent lawsuit.”

Police, who spoke with witnesses and reviewed surveillance video, said Atkinson was shot after he forced an unarmed female security guard into the store’s office by putting an object to her back and placing her in a headlock. When Elliott responded to cries for help, Atkinson released the woman and charged at Elliott, who shot Atkinson.

Atkinson was wearing a mask and hoodie during the incident, but police did not say if he was carrying a firearm. He was taken to Wishard Hospital in critical condition and died several hours later.

Elliott, 24 at the time, resigned from Kroger about a month later.

Attorney Jon C. Abernathy of Indianapolis based Goodin Abernathy LLP, who represented Toni Atkinson, did not return phone calls seeking comment on the decision.
 

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  • Legal System
    We live in a sue-happy society. The legal system should demand payment for all incurred court costs and the defendant's legal fees from law firms/lawyers that encourage these ridiculous lawsuits. That would hopefully make people think twice before pursuing this sort of nonsense. Kudos to Kroger for sticking to their guns (no pun intended) and not settling (which is probably what Abernathy and Atkinson were hoping for). Glad to see the justice system worked in this case.
  • Seriously?
    Not only can I not believe this poor excuse of a mother filed this suit, I can't believe any reputable attorney would encourage it. Talk about living in denial. Way to try to cash in on your thug sons death, lady.
  • Sue back
    I think the state should sue this family back for any of the state's time that was wasted on this. As well as sue the lawyers who probably talked the family into filing the suit against Kroger in the first place.
  • Glad Suit Dropped
    I am glad to see that this frivilous suit was dropped and justice served. The fact that Atkinson's family even THOUGHT about suing anyone after their son committed a violent crime is absolutely positively crazy. Unfortunately, this is happening way too often were habitual criminals are getting more consideration than law abiding citizens. These habitual criminals KNOW how to work the system. Jailhouse lawyers are contstantly providing tips and tricks. Very sorry that Elijah became unemployed because of this.
  • Amen!!!!!!!!
    Justice!
  • Justice
    This is why we have a concealed carry law.Just feel sorry that Elijah was put in the situation.

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