Two years after Palm Beach Central High School students mourned the death of a 17-year-old classmate who was fatally shot in his bedroom, his family has filed a wrongful death lawsuit accusing the owners and managers of a Wellington apartment complex of negligence.
Had the owners of The Estates at Wellington Green Apartments put adequate security in place, intruders wouldn’t have been able to break into Dalton Dobkins’ apartment, said attorney Spencer Kuvin, who represents the slain youth’s family in the lawsuit filed this week in Palm Beach County Circuit Court.
Believing the apartment was unoccupied, intruders were surprised when a sleeping Dobkins awoke and they shot him twice in the chest, Palm Beach County sheriff’s investigators said when they charged two men with first-degree murder in the teen’s 2016 death.
“This whole tragic event could have been prevented if they had taken reasonable measures to protect the residents,” Kuvin said.
He is suing SCG Atlas Wellington LLC, the owners of the complex near The Mall At Wellington Green. He is also suing Pinnacle Property Management Services, a Texas-based company that was managing the complex at the time of Dobkins’ death. Neither were immediately available for comment.
In the lawsuit, Kuvin said there were an insufficient number of surveillance cameras and security guards on hand to adequately protect residents. While the complex was gated, residents said the gates were often broken, allowing anyone to enter, Kuvin said.
Crime reports show there had been a spate of car break-ins and burglaries prior to Dobkins’ death, he said. That should have prompted the owners and managers to beef up security.
Kuvin declined to say how much he would be seeking for Dobkins’ father, Robert, who lost his wife to cancer four years before his son was killed. The teen’s stepmother, Claire Ford, is pursing the litigation as personal representative of the youth’s estate.
Two Boynton Beach men — Joel Rodriguez, 20, and 22-year-old Augustine Rivera — were charged with first-degree murder in the Dobkins’ death. Rivera is to be tried on Feb. 1 and faces a maximum life sentence if convicted.
Prosecutors said they will seek the death penalty for Rodriguez. No trial date has been set.
He is also faces two charges of first-degree murder in another case — the slayings of Aaron Valle, 18, and Elijah Montas, 17, outside the Serrano Apartments just east of Greenacres. They were fatally shot two weeks after Dobkins’ murder.