JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A Florida law firm claims that Sunday's mass shooting at the Jacksonville Landing took place at a disorganized gaming tournament in an undersized venue. The lawsuit was filed on behalf of Jacob Mitich, who was sitting 5 feet from the gunman in the Good Luck, Have Fun Game Bar inside Chicago Pizza when he was shot.
Mitich was among 10 people injured Sunday during the "Madden NFL 19" tournament. Three died, including the shooter.
The lawsuit, announced Wednesday by Morgan & Morgan, names Electronic Arts, the game developer that held the tournament; Chicago Pizza, which hosted the event; and Sleiman Enterprises, which manages the Jacksonville Landing as defendants. The lawsuit also names Property Management Support Inc., the Good Luck Have Fun game bar, Allied Universal Corp and Clifton Comastro, who owns Chicago Pizza.
The lawsuit also reveals new information about the shooting. According to the lawsuit, shooter, David Katz, was eliminated about 11:45 a.m. Sunday by Wesley Gittens, not Eli Clayton, one of the two men who killed. Katz was wandering around, wearing the same clothes as the day before, and looking disheveled.
Mitich, a 23-year-old college student from Fallson, Maryland, had made it to round two of the esports tournament when the shots rang out.
According to the lawsuit, Mitich was sitting 5 feet away from Clayton when Katz lit him up with the laser sight and opened fire. Mitich dove for cover and was hit at least twice.
Vaulting over a table, he scrambled to exit the crowded room. He later realized he'd been shot in the leg. Mitich was released from the hospital that night and flew home Monday morning.
Mitich says Clayton had told him of an incident in Las Vegas in which Clayton and Katz were in a taxi together, and Katz was upset and threatening. The lawsuit says Clayton reported that to Electronic Arts, but nothing was done.
Mitich's attorney, James Young, said the lawsuit alleges negligence. The 49-page lawsuit says the venue at GLHF was disorganized, undersized and cramped, and players had to step over each other just to get to the bathroom.
Young said the suit also is seeking relief from Electronic Arts to provide safe spaces for tournaments. The lawsuit said Electronic Arts failed to provide security, screen the gamers, inform local law enforcement about the tournament or tell the gamers anything about the venue. Similar claims about security were made against other defendants.
As far as Electronic Arts, the lawsuit says there were two representatives from the company on site, including what's called a "community manager." According to Electronic Arts, the role of that manager is to coordinate a lot of the communication during these events. That includes, but is not limited to, "Plan and schedule community activities and influencer events, both in-game and out of game..."
However, the lawsuit claims that nowhere in Electronic Arts' structure is there a person who is charged with ensuring the safety of contestants at these events.
Morgan & Morgan released the following statement:
Like many of his friends, Jacob Mitich traveled to Jacksonville last weekend to do what he loved. He trusted the event host and organizers, and believed that he was walking into a safe space. That trust was shattered when shots rang out in an over-crowded, since-shut-down, non-permitted space. Combined with an alleged abject failure to provide adequate security, the result was tragic. We are bringing this lawsuit to hold those responsible accountable, and to ensure that gamers like Jake are able to get together to pursue their passion without having to fear for their lives.”