Civil lawsuit details teen’s beating at mall State police don’t have report on incident

By SEAN O’SULLIVAN • The News Journal • July 24, 2008

WILMINGTON — On the same day that Christiana Mall began barring unescorted youth under 18 on weekend evenings, a civil lawsuit was filed in state court by the family of a teen who alleges he was savagely beaten in October 2006 by a mob of teens outside the food court.

The Superior Court civil action by the family of Timothy Fowler, filed July 11 seeking damages, names Christiana Mall and related companies as defendants charging them with negligence in allowing a dangerous condition to exist. The suit also charges mall management with failing to adequately train and supervise security personnel in maintaining a safe environment.

A spokesman for the mall declined comment on the lawsuit or the alleged 2006 incident.

“We have not seen the lawsuit and it is General Growth Properties’ policy not to comment on any type of litigation,” Steve Chambliss, general manager of Christiana Mall, said in an e-mailed statement.

According to the suit and attorney Cynthia Pruitt, 17-year-old Fowler had been in the mall Oct. 20, 2006, a Friday, with his sister, Lauren Stewart, when she exchanged heated words with some other teenagers.

Later, about 10 p.m., Fowler and his sister were waiting for family members to pick them up outside the food court. According to the suit, Fowler’s sister was then surrounded by a large group of teenage girls, apparently including ones she had exchanged words with, and they attacked her.

Fowler then stepped in to break up the fight and protect his sister, according to the suit, and was assaulted from behind, knocked to the ground and kicked repeatedly.

Fowler suffered serious injuries according to the claim, including fractured bones in his face and pain in his jaw and persistent headaches afterward.

Pruitt said Fowler was taken to a hospital by family, where he was treated, and mall security “treated this as a non-incident.”

Pruitt accused the mall of being non-responsive to the family’s requests for information including reports or video that may have been made of what happened. She said it appears mall security did little or no investigating and no one was charged with assault.

Delaware State Police said they did not have any report on file about the incident. Cpl. Jeffrey Whitmarsh said there are usually only a handful of assault incidents associated with the mall every year — three so far in 2008 and eight in 2007. But he said it is difficult to give a definitive number on such incidents because each store is treated as a separate entity.

Pruitt said the timing of the lawsuit with the first day of a new security policy aimed at reigning in teenagers at the mall was coincidence.

Mall officials said the new policy, called Parental Guidance Required, which requires those under 18 to have an adult escort after 5 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, was not implemented in response to any one incident.

After more than a week, Chambliss said they are pleased with the new policy.

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