A Domino’s Pizza franchisee in West Monroe could not be held liable for the death of a 17-year-old who robbed, kidnapped and carjacked a pizza delivery driver at gunpoint in light of the delivery driver shooting the suspect in self-defense.
That was the thrust of a motion for summary judgment filed April 23 in Fourth Judicial District Court by RPM Pizza LLC, a Domino’s Pizza franchisee on Cypress Street in West Monroe.
RPM Pizza filed the motion in response to a December 2017 lawsuit filed by Charlene and Dale Worthy Sr. on behalf of their deceased son, Cordale Walker. The Walkers claimed RPM Pizza failed to enforce a no weapons policy on Jareth Porter, who was the delivery driver who shot Cordale Walker and was conducting company business at the time.
The Walkers’ lawsuit also claimed Porter’s actions were disproportionate, excessive and unreasonable.
The incident occurred on Jan. 19, 2017 when Porter was delivering a pizza and confronted by two men who were hooded and masked. The two suspects ultimately robbed him, kidnapped him and took his truck. Later, when he believed the two suspects were preparing to kill him, Porter said he grabbed a handgun from the driver’s side door and fired several shots killing Cordale Walker.
The other suspect, Joshua Donson, was arrested by West Monroe police for armed robbery, second-degree kidnapping, principal to second-degree murder and criminal conspiracy.
West Monroe police determined that Donson was currently serving prison time on the weekends at Ouachita Correctional Center for an armed robbery of a pizza delivery driver that occurred in February 2015 on Tanglewood Drive in Monroe, according to the Jan. 20, 2017 warrant for Donson’s arrest. Donson’s criminal history included arrests for terrorizing, armed robbery, domestic battery and resisting an officer.
In its February 2018 answer to the Walkers’ petition, RPM Pizza admitted only that Porter was an employee and that he was on a delivery run “when decedent and his accomplice robbed, kidnapped and carjacked him.”
RPM Pizza defended Porter’s actions as self-defense.
“The death of Cordale Walker was caused solely or in part by his own actions and criminal activity, and/or those of his cohort in crime, which should serve to bar and/or reduce any recovery against the defendants herein,” stated the Walkers’ petition.
RPM Pizza asked the court to allow them to recover their attorney fees and court costs for defending themselves in such a lawsuit.
RPM Pizza did not have any duty to protect Cordale Walker from any violence he might encounter while engaging in robbery, kidnapping, and carjacking someone at gunpoint, the franchisee argued.
Under state law, a person who uses reasonable and apparently necessary and deadly force to prevent a forcible offense against themselves or their property is immune from civil action for their actions.
“It is anticipated that plaintiffs will argue, and RPM would deny, that having established a no weapons policy, RPM assumed a duty to its customers to make sure its delivery drivers did not have weapons in their automobiles, that RPM breached that duty by failing to discover that Mr. Porter had a firearm in his truck, and that Mr. Walker was ultimately killed as a result of that negligence,” stated RPM Pizza’s April 23 memorandum in support of its motion for summary judgment. “However, RPM did not have, nor did it assume a duty to protect an individual engaged in a criminal act against one of its drivers from the negative consequences of that person’s own actions.”
As of earlier this week, the Fourth Judicial District Court had not acted on RPM Pizza’s motion for summary judgment.
for his life
A list of material issues of fact not in dispute filed into the record by RPM Pizza detailed the events on Jan. 19, 2017 leading to Cordale Walker’s death. According to the list of facts, Cordale Walker left his parents’ home around 8:30 p.m. with Joshua Donson. Police learned from Cordale Walker’s mother that Donson had a gun in his waistband on the day of the incident.
Porter was robbed at gunpoint and kidnapped and carjacked by Donson and Cordale Walker, who was 17 at the time, according to police.
“After taking Porter’s wallet the two men attempted to take off in Porter’s truck but were unable to drive a standard transmission and stalled it,” stated the list of material facts. “In an attempt to remove himself from the situation, Porter offered to show the men how to drive his truck so they could take it and leave.”
The two suspects could not drive the truck, so they ordered Porter at gunpoint to get in the driver’s side and ordered them to drive.
“After driving a short distance the assailants ordered Porter to stop the truck and while they were having a conversation, Porter was able to see the men chambering a round in the gun so he knew that it was loaded and ready to fire,” stated the list of material facts.
The two suspects forced Porter to drive to a remote area upon the threat of being shot.
“(Porter) said one of the suspects told the other that ‘if he doesn’t do what you say, blow his f***ing head off,’” stated a West Monroe police detective’s report.
During another discussion between the two suspects, Porter located and loaded his handgun.
“Porter was then instructed to get out of the truck, at which time he felt certain that his abductors were planning on killing him,” stated the list of material facts.
“As he exited his truck, Porter, fearing for his life, grabbed his handgun and began shooting at the individual he believed to be holding the gun as that man came at him,” stated the list of material facts. “After that individual fell to the ground, he (the individual) started to raise his arm and Porter believed he was going to shot at him (Porter) so he fired again and then fled toward some trees calling for help.”
Porter’s shots killed Cordale Walker.
“Throughout his deposition Porter affirmed that as a result of having had the gun held to his head, having been threatened with having his brains blown out, the increasingly anxious demeanor of his kidnappers, and having seen that the weapon being pointed at him was loaded and ready to fire, he was in fear for his life and felt that these men were ready to ‘get rid of him’ when he fired shots at the individual who turned out to be Cordale Walker,” stated RPM Pizza’s memorandum in support of a motion for summary judgment.