Vanessa and Olga Soto stopped at Wendy's on Military Trail four years ago to grab a quick bite and instead became victims of a shooting spree
that claimed the life of a Palm Beach County firefighter.
This week, the Lake Worth mother and daughter were among seven individuals and couples who sued the fast-food chain for injuries they say they sustained in the rampage. The shooting could have been avoided had adequate security been in place
, they claim in lawsuits filed in Palm Beach County Circuit Court.
"Wendy's has taken no meaningful steps to protect its customers from violence on-site from (its founding) in 1969 through to March 3, 2008," attorney Gary Roberts wrote in the lawsuits.
Despite a spate of killing at fast-food restaurants nationwide, the industry refuses to hire security guards, Roberts said. While it would cost little, the industry doesn't want to incur the expense or to suggest to customers that the eateries aren't safe, he said.
"At some point the industry needs to be held accountable," he said. "Why not here?"
In a statement, Wendy's said no amount of security would have stopped Alburn "Eddie" Blake from opening fire during the lunchtime rush
at the restaurant on Military Trail near Cherry Road.
"The tragedy occurred in broad daylight while the restaurant was busy," said Denny Lynch, a spokesman for the Ohio-based chain. "It appeared the shootings were a random act of violence."
The seven lawsuits, filed within two weeks of the four-year deadline for when they had to be filed, will be combined with a lawsuit Roberts filed in 2010 on behalf of the family of the late Palm Beach County Fire-Rescue Lt. Rafael "Ray" Vazquez.
Vazquez was standing close to Blake when the 60-year-old landscaper pulled out a 9 mm Glock 17 and began shooting. After spraying the restaurant, Blake killed himself. Patrons said he was acting strangely in the minutes before the shooting, but no motive was ever found.