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Robbery victim awarded $1-million

St. Petersburg Times

CLEARWATER – A jury awarded $1-million Thursday to a man who was shot and blinded in one eye while making a night deposit at Barnett Bank in St. Petersburg two years ago.Anthony Verran blamed the bank for his injury because the night drop was in a high-crime area, was poorly lit and was shrouded by overgrown shrubbery.

Moments before the verdict was read after the jury had deliberated for more than an hour – the insurer for Barnett Bank of Pinellas County offered to settle the case for $500,000.

But Verran, a 26-year-old senior majoring in economics at Eckerd College, turned down the offer because he said he thought he deserved more compensation for his injuries.

“It feels right and just” he said of the jury’s award. “I think it’s fair.”

On Feb. 20, 1986, Verran was working part-time for the Plaza Theatres on First Avenue S. in St. Petersburg when he and the theater’s assistant manager took the night’s earnings and deposited them at Barnett Bank’s night drop at 3100 Central Ave.

Verran was assaulted by two men who jumped out from behind nearby bushes, and one of them shot Verran in the face. He spent four days in the hospital and is permanently blind in his right eye. Attorneys said it’s possible – though not likely – that he could lose sight in his left eye, too.

His companion was not seriously injured.

The robbers were never caught.

After the four day trial began, Barnett’s attorney, H. Vance Smith, admitted that the bank was liable for Verran’s injuries. It failed to make the area surrounding the night depository safer, he said, even though another man was robbed there six months earlier and complained to bank employees.

Had higher-ranking bank officials been told of the first robbery, they would have made sure that shrubbery around the night’s deposit box was trimmed so that robbers couldn’t hide, Smith said.

“Somebody dropped the ball,” he said.

With the issue of liability decided, the jury’s only task was to decide how much the bank should compensate Verran.

Verran’s attorney, C. Steven Yerrid, suggested to the jury that a fair award would be $1.85 million.

Smith asked them to award Verran $200,000.

Barnett will consider an appeal, Smith said.

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