Real Estate Photographer Taking Legal Action After Being Shot by Homeowner

Real Estate Photographer Taking Legal Action After Being Shot by Homeowner

An Atlanta-based photographer is taking legal action after being shot upon entering the home he was assigned to photograph. The homeowner blames a "miscommunication."

Whitney Morris is now suing Real Estate Expert Advisors in Buford, as well as one of its employees specifically, after claiming they failed to inform a homeowner that he was scheduled to arrive in order to photograph the property. Also named in the lawsuit is the property owner, with Morris citing that she failed to “act as a reasonable person would under the circumstances.”

It is reported that Morris was initially booked to photograph Belinda Brooks’ home on February 1st, but after becoming unavailable, it was rescheduled for the following day. The problem arose when the new date was allegedly not relayed to homeowner Brooks. As per the instructions, Morris used the lock box outside the house to acquire the key and gain access.

With the property’s alarm system sounding upon his entry – and Morris unable to find the security code to de-activate it – he stepped inside. As court documents reveal:

Unbeknownst to (Morris), Brooks was inside the house in a back bedroom with the bedroom door closed,” the document said. “Brooks retrieved her .38 caliber Ruger pistol (and) fired her gun through the back bedroom door and wall and struck (Morris).

It was only upon hearing his cries that Brooks opened the door, to be told by Morris that he was the photographer. Brooks claims she was still awaiting a phone call to book in the rescheduled appointment.

Morris’ lawsuit includes filings for personal injuries, lost earnings, and expenses, accusing the defendants of negligence. With Morris out of work for several months, a GoFundMe page has been set up to help with expenses.

Log in or register to post comments

48 Comments

Motti Bembaron's picture

What a sad reality...

Thanks for sharing... Your headline had me at the word "shot." I was wondering what the word "shot" meant... I mean, I shoot regularly but a photographer being "shot" triggered interest.. Ugh! That had to be insane and awful. A good post of caution.

Robert K Baggs's picture

Shooter shot by shooter at shoot. Didn't a photographer get shot at for carrying a tripod last year too? I'm glad I do most of my work in England, the worst that can happen to me is having hot tea flung in my face.

Well, that and having a "Bobby" shout, "Stop! Or I'll say 'stop' again!" LOL

Jason Lorette's picture

Glad I'm in Canada, I just started helping a buddy photog with real estate photos a week ago...yeesh.

Ken Mock's picture

It's worse to be shot by a hunting rifle, be careful

Jeff Walsh's picture

Am I reading this correctly? The gun shooter just blindly shot through a door and a wall at the photog, because her alarm was going off? If so, add another person to the list of people who shouldn't be allowed to own or operate a firearm

Tony Tumminello's picture

Suing the homeowner seems a step too far in my opinion under the assumption that everything is correct here (her still waiting for a call regarding a reschedule). If you're home alone and you hear your security system go off, it's completely reasonable to suspect that someone has unexpectedly entered your home and you should be prepared to defend yourself if necessary. If she truly wasn't informed that someone would be coming over that day, then I'm not seeing how her actions were unreasonable.

Christian Lainesse's picture

How about yelling "I have a gun and I just called 911" instead of firing first and asking questions later?

Tony Tumminello's picture

Panic? Adrenaline? Fearing for your life? Not everyone maintains a level head in a situation like that...

Of course, that also brings up the question of whether she should even be in a position to own a gun in the first place if she's not able to handle herself. I'd say no, but then again I'm not the one writing the laws on this.

Christian Lainesse's picture

She was level-headed enough to go get the gun, aim at the door and pull the trigger multiple times

Ken Mock's picture

Never shoot unless you have identified a target, some of us might shoot back

Motti Bembaron's picture

" Not everyone maintains a level head in a situation like that..." It seems to be a serious problem in the US...

Lee Ramsden's picture

Ha ha class, thank goodness you are not writing laws on this. Reasonable force is law. No idea what is behind a wall, first instance using deadly force is not reasonable in a court of law. Insane story.

Am I the only who thinks this story doesn't make sense? After all the home owner wasn't charged. That makes me think there is more to the story than what the victim and his attorney is sharing.

amanda daniels's picture

Um, would you fire a gun through a door just because your alarm went off? What if it was a family member who just didn't turn the alarm off soon enough?? I understand maybe she didn't get the communication but her actions were just reckless. She has the right to protect her home, but she could have said I have a gun, i am calling 911, anything. Not just blindly shoot.

Tony Tumminello's picture

No, because a) I'm not a gun owner, and b) I hope that I would have a more level head in a situation like this. That being said, not everyone is able to have that level-headedness when you're in a situation where you fear for your life. I hope that I'm never in a situation like that to find out what I'd do.

Clearly she didn't maintain composure and this happened, but I still find it difficult to blame her. Something terrifying happens to you and then all of the logic and plans for what you'd do in that situation can disappear in a flash when you think "Oh god someone's in my house that could hurt me." It's a shame this was the result, but here we are.

amanda daniels's picture

I get your point and I certainly can't say what I would have done in her situation. However, as a gun owner you do have a certain amount of responsibility that you should follow. You never fire a gun without seeing your target. I understand fear set in, but then she shouldn't have a gun. You have every right to protect yourself and your home, but you also need to be responsible. Too many people are getting guns because they are scared (I get it) and they aren't taking the correct training and preparation. Of course I do wonder why he would enter the house while the alarm was going off instead of waiting outside. I don't think we have all the facts here. Do I think he was also partially at fault? Yes. He also has a responsibility to speak with the home owners since they live there. People just need to be more careful with guns.

Drew Pluta's picture

"not everyone is able to have that level-headedness when you're in a situation where you fear for your life." So, GUNS for everyone!

Anonymous's picture

So, he was there after having been booked to do a job, i.e. a legally authorised agent, get's shot whilst endeavouring to conduct the work he had been authorised to undertake, and he was shot by a person firing blindly from another room.

But suing the assailant is a "step too far"?

Epic.

Allen Morris's picture

Georgia's got "stand your ground" laws, so he probably won't get anything from the homeowner. The realtors are another story.

Do they have a shoot first, ask questions later law as well?

In Australia she’d be criminally charged for Acts to Endanger Life. She was reckless or negligent and that makes her culpable

Allen Morris's picture

Honestly I’m not sure. But for the most part, if someone is in your home “uninvited” (which is tricky here) then the law says you have a right to “protect” yourself (protect also in quotes, because I don’t know if wildly shooting at a wall counts).

From Wikipedia, FWIW:

“At common law, self-defense claims are not valid if the defendant could have safely retreated from danger (duty to retreat). The castle doctrine is an exception to this. It gives immunity from liability to individuals who acted in self-defense in the home even if they could have safely retreated from the threat and failed to do so.”

That's funny

Chris Rogers's picture

But in Australia wouldn't she just automatically get thrown in jail just for having the firearm? I thought guns were completely banned down there?

Adam Milton's picture

This woman is selling her house, she knows there's a lockbox outside, and she's still so shocked that someone entered her house? What would've happened if she simply forgot that someone was coming over? I can't see how she thought it would better to shoot blindly than see who was inside. The homeowner has to be completely liable for this.

You're assuming that the story is legit. If she was in the wrong she would have been charged.

Daniel ORourke's picture

I take work at customer's homes everyday. Jobs are assigned to me by another entity. I have customer name, address, and contact info, and I verify the appointment via phone before going to the job site. I knock on the front door or ring the doorbell upon my arrival even if I've confirmed the appointment ahead of time. Did Mr. Morris take the time to confirm the appointment with the homeowner? Did he knock on the door or ring the doorbell before just taking the key out of the lockbox? And WHY WHY WHY would anyone still step inside a home with an alarm sounding? These 3 things aren't addressed in the article above, but would seem to be actions that any reasonable, responsible contractor would take before entering a customer's home. Without knowing more of the story, I would lean towards thinking Mr. Morris acted irresponsibly and could have easily prevented his injury. No customer confirmation, no ring of the doorbell, just entered using the key from the lockbox, and continued entering with the alarm sounding? And he wants to blame everyone else for his injury?

Anonymous's picture

Yes, in law that's called "contributory negligence", which will serve to reduce any punative damages award - the owner was still negligent and reckless, and an award of damages will still be made.

Adam Milton's picture

I disagree completely, I have done many RE shoots with lockbox access, and I can think of maybe one or two occasions where I received any homeowner information. Even when I knew the homeowner would be there, I almost never had any of their information in advance. You coordinate with the realtor, who coordinates with the homeowner, and that's how the communication always works, except for the rare occasion that you are asked to coordinate directly with the homeowner. This is doubly true when you have very specifically been instructed to use the lockbox, which you wouldn't do if there was any chance someone may be home, so you don't think about knocking or ringing the doorbell. Your points are obvious in hindsight, but don't necessarily apply to real estate photography.

More comments