(CN) — The security company that employed and trained the Pulse nightclub shooter cannot be held liable for his actions, a Florida appeals court ruled on Wednesday.
Florida’s Fourth District Court of Appeal upheld a 2018 trial court’s dismissal of a negligence lawsuit brought by more than 30 survivors and relatives of the slain against G4S Secure Solutions.
G4S employee Omar Mateen killed 49 people and injured 53 in the June 2016 shooting while proclaiming support of the Islamic State. Following a three-hour standoff, a SWAT team killed the gunman after storming the nightclub.
“We agree with G4S that ‘Mateen was an individual with free agency who was outside of G4S’s control and who committed crimes on his own time, with his own weapons and resources, at a location of his choosing,” Judge Burton Connor wrote in the opinion.
Judges Cory Ciklin and Jeffrey Kuntz joined in the decision.
The plaintiffs claim the security company should have properly investigated Mateen before hiring him and providing him with annual firearms training.
In addition, they argued, G4S should have revoked his security license after learning about several alarming comments during his 10 years of employment, including comments made to co-workers about murdering gays and lesbians.
According to court documents, G4S knew a corrections officer training class kicked Mateen out after he mentioned bringing a gun to class during a conversation about the Virginia Tech campus massacre.
G4S also submitted a “fraudulent psychological evaluation” to the state so Mateen could acquire the Class G gun license needed for security, court documents state. After Mateen had his license, G4S gave him firearms training.
The appeals court rejected that argument, noting that if Mateen never received the license to carry a gun as a security guard, he still could have bought firearms as a private citizen to commit the massacre.
“Appellants’ argument that by fraudulently assisting Mateen in obtaining a Class G license—which in turn was helpful in purchasing the weapons used—is legally irrelevant,” Connor wrote.
The appellate ruling also noted that the broad negligence claim brought by the survivors could have “severe public policy implications” that would “essentially result in G4S being strictly liable and an absolute guarantor of Mateen’s behavior while off duty at all times.”
In a statement, G4S denied the accusation the company submitted a “fraudulent psychological evaluation,” noting that Florida law requires appeals court to “treat allegations from the complaints as though they are true.” The company said the wrong psychologist’s name was listed on the application.
“G4S continues to have the deepest sympathy for the victims, friends and families who were affected by Omar Mateen’s terrible actions,” the statement said.
The plaintiffs were represented by Kristoffer Budhram of the Law Offices of Conrad Benedetto, Andrew Harris of Burlington & Rockenbach and Diana Martin of Cohen Millstein Sellers & Toll.
The attorneys could not immediately be reached for comment.