NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — For the first time, Waffle House has been named a defendant in a civil lawsuit stemming from last year's deadly shooting. In it, lawyers said the restaurant's emergency exit was locked while a gunman opened fire killing four people.
Four people were killed when police say Travis Reinking opened fire on the customers inside the restaurant.
Attorneys for one of the survivors, Sharita Henderson, filed the $25 million lawsuit Thursday, claiming Waffle House was negligent in its lack of security personnel.
The lawsuit argues the restaurant should have security measures in place due to its location and hours of operation.
"Defendants knew or should have known that this Waffle House restaurant was in a dangerous location, did not have adequate security measures in place to protect patrons, as an attractive target for violent criminal activity because of the absence of security personnel and/or designed deterrent measures, and exposed late-night and early-morning patrons to risk of harm to due to reckless or intentional third-party criminal activity."
The lawsuit said by not taking safety steps, Waffle House executives made the restaurant "unreasonable, dangerous and unsafe for Waffle House customers."
Lawyers also claim that while accused gunman Travis Reinking was shooting, the store's emergency exits were locked.
"When you have a 24-hour establishment, I think you need to take every step to make sure your patrons are safe," legal analyst Nick Leonardo said, adding that he wasn't surprised by the new lawsuit. "I'm surprised that the lawsuit wasn't filed sooner, frankly."
Leonardo said the case will come down to if lawyers can prove a history of danger.
"It's not going to be a slam dunk such as suing Mr. Reinking...they're going to have to show by a preponderance of the evidence that [Waffle House executives] were negligent," Leonardo said.
The suit is one of several lawsuits filed in the deadly shooting, but it's the first and only suit filed against the restaurant.
It is one of two lawsuits filed this week. The other was filed Wednesday by DeEbony Groves' family against Travis Reinking and his father Jeffrey Reinking.
Sharita Henderson is also filing a lawsuit against the shooter's father, Jeffrey Reinking. Henderson claims that Jeffrey Reinking gave his son access to the firearms used in the shooting even though he knew Travis was mentally ill and legally forbidden from using guns.