Andrew Dys

Judge dismisses civil case in 2008 Rock Hill check cashing store shooting

Ida Lord walked out of the York County’s Moss Justice Center Tuesday afternoon as broke as when she walked in at the start of her civil trial the day before.

It was a trial during which she and her lawyers claimed that the business where she was shot and maimed more than seven years ago by serial shooter Phillip Watts was negligent.

But on Tuesday, Circuit Court Judge Dan Hall dismissed the case, ruling that Lord had not introduced enough evidence to make her case.

The directed verdict came just moments after Lord had testified – needing help to get into the witness chair – that when Phillip Watts shot her, “I felt like everything was taken from me.”

It is still gone.

Hall’s order ended the trial just a day after it started and before a jury could decide whether Rock Hill’s Cash on the Spot check-cashing business should have hired a security guard to protect customers like Lord while Watts was terrorizing the county.

Lord and her lawyers produced “no admissible testimony that spoke to the unreasonableness” of the store’s decision not to hire a security guard, Hall said.

Lord, 50, suffered brain damage Watts shot her on Valentine’s Day during a 2008 crime spree. Her work as a home health aide was destroyed by bullets, and she has struggled with rehabilitation and poverty ever since.

Watts is serving seven life sentences for shooting four people while robbing seven stores. Lord was his last victim, having been shot in the head and back during an attempted armed robbery.

Still, she vowed not to give up.

“I’m going to fight,” Lord said.

But her lawyers, Robert Reeves and Art Aiken, left the courthouse without saying what the next step for Lord would be, declining to comment on whether she would appeal the judge’s decision. Reeves did say he, Aiken and Lord are “very disappointed” in the directed verdict.

Lord maintained the characteristic positive demeanor that she kept since being shot seven years ago.

“I’m not disappointed,” she said, “I am me.”

Attorney Leland Greeley, who represented Cash on the Spot owner Darrell Starnes, declined to comment on Hall’s ruling, which came after he successfully blocked Lord’s attorneys from presenting a former police officer/investigator as an expert witness. Greeley did say he expects the decision will be appealed.

Even before the directed verdict, Greeley had argued that the store could not have known Watts would attack Lord and had no obligation to hire security.

In a 2011 deposition, Starnes said he had told store employees before Lord was shot that “a madman was on the loose,” but in court this week, he denied having said that.

Store manager Marsha Boyd wept Tuesday when testifying about how she witnessed Lord’s being gunned down by Watts.

The store’s insurance company was able to extricate itself from any liability because Lord was injured during the commission of a violent crime.

Lord’s 2009 lawsuit was originally dismissed, but the state Supreme Court ordered last year that Lord be given a trial.

The ruling that ended the lawsuit Tuesday came after Lord herself testified in dramatic fashion. She walked slowly toward the witness chair, where she told the jury how she “had a wonderful life” before she was shot.

Testimony from a doctor showed that Lord still suffers from memory loss, physical problems, chronic pain and other problems. Lord underwent at least seven operations, and a doctor testified that most people do not survive a gunshot wound to the brain.

But Lord did survive.

Lord, a mother of three and grandmother of 10, has no memory of the shooting.

“I remember walking in, doing business, and waking up in the hospital,” she testified.

In the years since, Lord has gone through physical therapy, but she still needs help getting dressed. She cannot work and has other restrictions.

“I’m living life, but I am not enjoying life,” she testified.

Lord’s last words of testimony were about Watts.

“I have forgiven him,” she said.

Minutes later, her lawyers rested their case and shortly after that, the judge ruled that hadn’t made their case.

Then Ida Lord walked slowly out of the courthouse, back to what’s left of a life destroyed by the bullets of Phillip Watts.