A hearing Monday to determine whether a wrongful-death lawsuit against Accent Signage Systems should be thrown out focused on whether Andrew Engeldinger fatally gunned down Jacob Beneke as part of a personal vendetta or because Beneke was simply a co-worker in the line of fire during September’s shooting rampage.
In the first court hearing since Beneke’s mother and widow sued Accent Signage in February, attorneys for the company argued that the lawsuit in Hennepin County District Court should be dismissed because Beneke’s death falls under the Minnesota Workers’ Compensation Act, which applies to cases of injury or death that arise out of the course of an employee’s job.
“These fellows were in the course and scope of their employment when these murders occurred,” Accent attorney Larry Rocheford argued in support of a motion to dismiss the case. “These claims cannot get off the ground.”
Beneke, 34, a graphic artist for the business in Minneapolis’ Bryn Mawr neighborhood, was one of six people Engeldinger shot and killed after he was fired from his job on Sept. 27, 2012; he then killed himself. Also killed were Accent owner Reuven Rahamim, Ronald Edberg, Rami Cooks, Eric Rivers and Keith Basinski. John Souter was seriously wounded.
Beneke’s family argued that the company was grossly negligent, citing the shootings as “reasonably foreseeable based on Engeldinger’s past incidents of employment misconduct and his known propensity for abuse and violence.” Engeldinger’s estate is also a defendant in the lawsuit.
Phil Villaume, the attorney representing Beneke’s family, said his death falls under exceptions to the Workers’ Compensation statutes, including if the injury or death occurred because of personal reasons. He argued that Beneke referred to Engeldinger as his “nemesis” and on the day of the shootings, drove a different vehicle to work than he normally did in case Engeldinger went “crazy.” Beneke knew Engeldinger was to be fired on that day.