Mother sues Marriott over fatal shooting

Teen-ager was killed while attending party at hotel in January

Lawsuit seeks $1 million

Official is unaware of legal action, but calls death `tragic'


October 30, 2001|By Lisa Goldberg | Lisa Goldberg,SUN STAFF

The mother of a Columbia teen-ager who was fatally shot during a party in January at the Columbia Courtyard by Marriott has filed suit against the hotel, alleging that its employees failed to protect their son when they allowed a party with underage drinkers and gun-toting guests to continue even after complaints were lodged.

Jennifer Corinaldi, whose son, Andre, 18, was killed Jan. 13, is seeking $1 million from the Bethesda-based chain of Courtyard hotels in a wrongful death lawsuit filed in Howard County Circuit Court last week.

The hotel breached its responsibility to provide "reasonable care" in its actions, said Michael E. Henderson, who represents Corinaldi in the lawsuit.

Corinaldi's purpose "is not to make the money so much but as a way of having the hotel and hotels in general take responsibility," he said. "And the financial consequences of it might help bring that home."

The teen-ager was "a good student, and he had a lot of promise," Henderson said, adding that the loss has left his mother "heartbroken."

Roger W. Conner, vice president of communications for Marriott International, said yesterday that he was not aware of the lawsuit and could not comment on it. He called the killing "a tragic, devastating" incident.

The teen-ager was one of an estimated 20 to 40 people - many uninvited - who attended a surprise birthday party for Lakecia Mack in Rooms 123 and 125 at the Courtyard by Marriott hotel on Stanford Boulevard, according to testimony at last month's murder trial of Shamal Ira Chapman, who was acquitted of all charges after a nearly two-week trial.

Andre Corinaldi had been invited to the party by Tanette McMillan, 19, who rented the rooms, according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit says that after partygoers started arriving at the hotel about 9 p.m., other hotel guests complained and security personnel visited Rooms 123 and 125 to tell those attending the party to quiet down.

The lawsuit alleges that hotel staff members knew that the teen-agers were "not properly supervised," and that the party had disturbed others but allowed it to continue.

At Chapman's trial, witnesses described a chaotic scene: two partygoers began arguing, prompting McMillan to put them in separate rooms. Shots were fired through the closed doors connecting the rooms, fatally striking Andre Corinaldi and seriously wounding Lauren Nicole Perkins, 18.

After the shooting, guests, who feared that the gunman was still in the room, left through hotel windows, a witness at Chapman's trial testified.

A few days later, County Executive James N. Robey referred to the incident and the hotel's alleged role in his State of the County address, calling it "a total shirking of responsibility on the part of personnel at the hotel in which it occurred. This is unacceptable. It is an invitation to disaster."

Michael A. Walker, then the hotel's general manager, responded by saying that members of his staff warned partygoers to stop opening a side entrance to let more people in.

Hotel employees were told that most of those at the party were leaving, Walker said, adding, "We really feel we did the best we could."

In April, county Police Chief G. Wayne Livesay and school Superintendent John R. O'Rourke sent a letter to parents, noting the death and urging parents not to rent rooms for their underage teen-agers during prom season.

The county officials said in the letter that parents would "hold both criminal and civil liability for what may occur in the rented room."

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