Friday, November 13, 2009 : Daily Report

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The owners of a gas station on a crime-riddled stretch of Fulton Industrial Boulevard have agreed to pay $790,000 to a man shot in the hand during a robbery at the station.

In what attorney Andrew E. Goldner called a “crazy, crazy case,” Henry Abramowicz, 45, had finished up an evening working on a conveyor belt at a nearby bakery when he stopped into a Shell gas station and convenience store on Aug. 19, 2008, at about 2 a.m., to buy a bottle of Gatorade.

As he left the station, said Goldner, “some guy pulls a gun on him and demands his wallet. Henry throws his wallet on the ground, hoping he’ll reach for it, but the guy points the gun back at his chest.”

Abramowicz tried to push the gun aside and the man fired, said Goldner, with the bullet passing through his client’s left hand. The robber grabbed the wallet and ran into some nearby woods. He was never caught, said the lawyer.

Abramowicz ran into the store and asked the attendant to call 911, said Goldner, “and the guy just ignored him.” It was then that a prostitute named Coco came in, called the clerk by his name and demanded that he call the police, he said.

The station’s owners offered to settle for $50,000, which was declined, he said.

On Feb. 27, Goldner, an associate with Fried Rogers Goldberg, filed a premises liability suit in Fulton County State Court seeking medical expenses, payment for lost work and other damages from the station’s Florida-based owners and local management.

According to Goldner and a subsequent demand letter, the gas manager and employees at first pretended to be unaware of the danger their store presented to customers, despite records showing that more than 2,200 calls to Fulton County 911 had been logged from the location in the three-and-a-half years prior to Abramowicz’s robbery. Not all of those calls, which originated from two telephones inside the store and pay phone outside, involved violence, said Goldner. But the letter says that “many” were “related to carjacking, robbery, burglary, larceny and the rape of a child on a nearby property.”

“They denied any knowledge of prior crimes, which I impeached with police reports showing hundreds of crimes,” said Goldner. “Two of their own employees had been attacked there themselves, and one was even on TV talking about it.”

In a deposition quoted in the demand letter, Goldner quoted store manager Neil Hossain’s answer when asked why he doesn’t close the store during early morning hours to reduce crime: If he did, “the people that hang around there would break in and steal everything.”

Abramowicz has already had three surgeries on his hand but suffered permanent nerve damage and some loss of movement, said Goldner. He has also suffered post-traumatic stress disorder and “gets up and patrols his house at night,” the lawyer said.

In a Sept. 18 demand letter, Goldner told attorneys for the station’s owners, a group called 5 Even A Inc. and Jeymar Inc., and Petroleum Realty II, that Abramowicz had medical bills topping $50,000, past lost wages of $88,000 and expected future lost wages of $880,000. He offered to settle for $1.75 million.

As negotiations continued, said Goldner, news reports of another shooting at the station erupted: On Oct. 9, a man was found shot through the head at the wheel of a pickup truck that had smashed into a Dumpster at the station, according to a report in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Following telephone negotiations, Goldner and Crim & Bassler partner Thomas S. “Todd” Bechtel, representing 5 Even A and Jeymar, agreed to settle for $790,000

Petroleum II, represented by Matthew G. Moffett of Gray, Rust, St. Amand, Moffett & Brieske, was not a party to the settlement discussions, said Goldner, as it was “basically a long-distance owner” with “a pretty minor role” in the case.

“The level of settlement relative to the injury was pretty remarkable,” said Goldner. “Our special damages were only about $100,000.”

Bechtel said he would have no particular comment on the case, other than to say it was “fairly litigated by all parties to reach this compromise settlement.” He confirmed that the settlement resolved the case for the defendant parties.

The case is Abramowicz v. Petroleum Realty II, No. 2009EV006445.

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