Family of Pharmacy Student Awarded Settlement

On Nov. 20, 2006, Shannon McCants was fatally shot in the pharmacy department of Shands Jacksonville Medical Center. Almost five years later, a Duval County jury awarded the FAMU alumna’s family $5.87 million for her death.

It was Whackenhut Corp. that the jury found responsible of negligence that led to McCants’ death, confirms the attorneys who represented the family. The attorneys reached an out-of-court resolution with Shands Jacksonville.

The lawsuit against Whackenhut Corp. was filed in early 2008 by the law firm Austin & Austin in Jacksonville. Ron Austin, partner of Austin & Austin, represented the McCants family.

“It was devastating to the family,” said Austin. “They were looking forward to the family growing together and sharing their lives together.

“It was suddenly exploded by Coney.”

The defendant, Whackenhut Corp., is a leading international security company with operations across the United States as well as overseas, including Iraq and Afghanistan. The basis of the lawsuit was on the negligence of Whackenhut Corp. and the risk assessment they preformed for Shands Jacksonville.

“Shands said that a risk assessment was not in the contract and they never asked for one,” said Roosevelt Randolph, partner to Knowles & Randolph in Tallahassee, who also worked on the case along with Dawn Whitehurst.

“We found out that they had to do this form of a risk assessment, like a physical site survey. Any time you begin doing something like that, you have to do it in reasonable manner. You cannot do a risk assessment in a haphazard manner.”

Randolph further explained that employees in the pharmacy department had asked Shands for a security guard to be posted at the pharmacy numerous times.

Also, the risk assessment performed by Whackenhut Corp. failed to demand that a security guard be posted at the pharmacy.

That was the argument made by the plaintiff in court and on September 30, 2011, the McCants family was awarded $5.87 million in damages.

Two years after the incident at the pharmacy department, Brenda Coney, then 48, was found guilty of first-degree murder after the jury rejected a plea of insanity. The jury deliberated for about 30 minutes before returning the verdict. Coney was sentenced to life imprisonment.

At the time of McCants’ death, she was married to Derrick McCants and had two children, a 7-year-old son and a 7-month-old daughter. The couple both graduated from Florida A&M’s College of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences in 1994 and the Department of Economics in 1995, respectively.

Since the incident, Shands has made steps to make the facility safer for employees, patients and guests. This includes extra security measures in the pharmacy like the addition of bulletproof glass for the pharmacists.

“The incident involving Shannon McCants was a tragedy for her family, our organization and the community, and continues to have an emotional impact on the people of Shands Jacksonville,” said Shands officials. “Shands Jacksonville continues to be dedicated to providing a safe, healthy environment for everyone who comes to our campus. Our hearts and prayers continue to go out to Mrs. McCants’ family and friends, and she will never be forgotten.”

Whackenhut Corp. could not be reached for comment.