Family sues KCI parking lot company after body sat in vehicle for months
The family of a man whose body decomposed in a KCI parking lot for months is suing the company responsible for monitoring vehicles in the lot.
SP+ Corporation and two of its employees are named as defendants in the suit, which was filed Friday by Randy Potter's widow, Carolina Potter, and his two children in Platte County Circuit Court. The suit alleges the Delaware-based company and the employees caused "extreme trauma and emotional distress" for Potter's relatives after the defendants failed to find the Lenexa man's body for eight months.
Potter's body was found last September after Kansas City police were alerted to a foul odor by a patron. Potter had taken his own life sometime after his relatives last saw him the previous January.
Jan Paul Miller, an attorney representing SP+, said he could not comment specifically on the details of the suit because he has not yet seen a copy of it.
But he said, "Obviously our hearts go out to the Potter family. It's a tragedy that Mr. Potter ... decided to take his own life.
"SP+ will be vigorously defending the suit. As tragic as the situation is, SP+ is not liable."
Potter's relatives suffered mental anguish and insomnia as they wondered last year where their father and husband was, if he was trapped somewhere, said the family's attorney, John Picerno.
Picerno held a news conference Friday afternoon. He was joined by co-counsel Chris Gahagan.
"Imagine waking up every day not knowing where a person is," Picerno said.
The suit alleges multiple counts of negligence.
"The ... failure to identify his car, despite defendant SP+'s duty to monitor the lot 24 hours a day and to check vehicles via license plate ... is egregious and outrageous," the suit alleges.
Blood pooled on the pavement in the Economy B lot around Potter's truck, the suit alleges. Flies buzzed in the area, and a foul odor came from the vehicle.
About a week after Potter's disappearance, his relatives provided SP+ employees with a description of Potter's truck and its license plate number, the suit says.
"Negligence may not be a strong enough word," Picerno said. "Obviously people didn't do the best they could. ."
Potter's relatives said they were assured by SP+ employees that if Potter's truck were in the lot, it would be found, either through a license plate tracking system or by a manual search of the lot. After learning that, neither the family nor the private investigator they hired returned to search the lot, Picerno said.
The company's contract with the city mandates that SP+ employees manually log license plates on vehicles backed into spaces, as Potter had parked, Picerno said. An automatic system is supposed to log every visible plate.
SP+ manages the 25,000 parking spaces at Kansas City International Airport, Kansas City spokesman Chris Hernandez said last year. SP+ remains under contract with the city, Picerno said.
The suit also claims SP+ interfered with the family's right of burial and breached its contract with the city.
The Potter family are considered third-party beneficiaries of that contract, according to Gahagan, which gives them a right to assume that its duties will be performed sufficiently and, if they aren't, to allege a breach of contract.
Carolina Potter, Potter's widow, previously told The Star that she couldn't understand why authorities didn't find her husband’s body.
“I am mad now,” she said before a memorial service in September. “I am beyond mad.”
Potter's relatives also suffered anxiety, depressed mood, mental and emotional anguish and humiliation, the suit says.
Picerno said SP+ already has offered a settlement to the family, but the family and their attorneys were unsatisfied by the amount offered and because a settlement would preclude the company from admitting fault. The attorneys declined to say how much was offered.
Part of the family's motivation for the suit is to keep such a situation from happening again, Picerno said.
Gahagan said he and Picerno are seeking damages "well over seven figures."
"That's how you get the attention of a corporation," Gahagan said, adding the company is motivated by money, not good will.
"So the only way you can change their behavior is to require them to pay money."