Woman who survived on-air shooting sues television station that formerly employed gunman

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Vicki Gardner, the woman who survived a shooting on live television in August 2015, is suing WDBJ Television, the station that formerly employed the gunman.

The suit was originally filed in 2017, but was amended this week. In the new filing, Gardner’s counsel removed two counts of negligence from the suit and reduced the amount of compensatory damages being sought from $9,000,000 to $6,000,000.

In August 2015, Gardner was taking part in a live television interview from Bridgewater Plaza in Moneta with WDBJ reporter Alison Parker and videographer Adam Ward. During the interview, a former employee of WDBJ, Vester Lee Flanagan II, also known as Bryce Williams, opened fire. Parker and Ward were killed. Gardner survived the shooting.

In the amended filing, Gardner’s attorneys allege negligent hiring and negligent retention on the part of WDBJ. The document states “Had WDBJ conducted a reasonable investigation, it would not have hired Flanagan.”

The complaint argues that Flanagan had a history of making threats and had prior disciplinary problems with a previous employer.

The court filing states that Flanagan was terminated from WTWC-TV in Tallahassee, Florida for multiple reasons, including misbehavior with regard to co-workers and failure to respond to corrective recommendations. The complaint also states that one former supervisor of Flanagan’s at WTWC-TV reported that Flanagan would fight with other employees and had even threatened their lives.

The amended complaint states “Not only did WDBJ fail to conduct a reasonable investigation, they failed to conduct any investigation at all. Here, WDBJ failed to properly screen Flanagan and did not conduct any criminal background check.”

The document also alleges that WDBJ negligently retained Flanagan as an employee. Flanagan, who the court filing states was hired by WDBJ in March 2012, reportedly had three separate occasions in which he physically threatened co-workers with bodily harm or death within the first two months of his employment at the station. The complaint states that each of those occasions was documented by management.

Despite what the complaint refers to as “red flags”, the document states that WDBJ retained Flanagan on its staff. He was eventually terminated in February 2013, according to the suit.

In March 2014, Flanagan filed a civil suit against WDBJ alleging employment discrimination. The case was dismissed July 2, 2015, roughly eight weeks before the shooting.

The amended complaint states that “Vicki has suffered and continues to suffer injuries and damages directly resulting from WDBJ’s negligence.” According to the court document, Gardner’s medical expenses related to injuries sustained in the shooting have totaled more than $221,850.

Counsel for WDBJ released the following statement in response to the amended complaint.

“We were shocked and saddened by the tragic events of August 26, 2015.  The attack on our friends & colleagues, Alison Parker and Adam Ward, and Vicki Gardner was carried out by a single, disturbed man.  Vester Flanagan’s employment with WDBJ was terminated for performance-related issues more than two years earlier.  Following his termination, Mr. Flanagan never returned to WDBJ, and he never made any threats to our employees.  No one at WDBJ foresaw, or could have foreseen, this attack.

Vester Flanagan was solely responsible for his reprehensible actions. As this litigation is currently pending, we are not able to comment further.”

The suit seeks $6,000,000 in damages.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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