Shanina Smith was 27 years old, engaged to be married and raising her 3-year-old son. She was working at a Lear Corporation plant in Alabama with a coworker named Angela Mayo. On a Sunday evening shift in August 2019, Mayo shot Smith several times, killing her.
Smith’s family is now filing a wrongful death lawsuit against Lear.
Mayo left the plant after the shooting and later turned herself into the authorities, admitting that she not only shot Smith, but then stood over and shot her again. Mayo alleged that she was the subject of workplace bullying, that Smith had been making fun of her for 8 months and “brushed up against her” on one occasion.
All of this, according to Mayo, made her fear physical violence.
While any claim of workplace bullying must always be taken seriously, suffice it to say, it was a non-starter as a reason for a murder that had at least 4 witnesses. Indeed, the violent and fatal reaction from Mayo required a review of her mental competence to stand trial before legal proceedings could begin.
In November 2020, Mayo was sent to Bryce Hospital where she underwent evaluation. In March 2021, she was deemed competent to stand trial for her crime. She chose to plead guilty and received a 50-year prison sentence in May.
Regina Smith, the mother of the deceased, is now bringing the wrongful death lawsuit against both Mayo and the Lear Corporation on behalf of Smith’s young son. The corporation, with its ability to pay out on any damages, is the significant target. The Smith family must prove that Lear was negligent in allowing Smith and Mayo to continue to work together.
In that regard, the complaint cites a “history of harassing and threatening” from Mayo and that Lear’s management was aware of what was taking place. The lawsuit alleges that prudent leadership from Lear would have foreseen trouble and that, in either case, the company lacked appropriate security to prevent guns from being brought to the workplace.
Stewart Springer is the attorney representing the Smith family in this case and is seeking $10 million in damages. Springer believes the final amount could go higher before the case is concluded.
Regina Smith remains understandably devastated by the loss and unsatisfied by the prison sentence given to Mayo. “I am just going to put the good Lord in front…” she said. “But I know it’s going to be hard for us…she (Shanina) was sweet, the sweetest little girl I raised.”
Time will tell how the lawsuit, to be overseen by circuit judge Brad Almond in Alabama, will play out. But in light of the charges made by Mayo in the immediate aftermath of the crime, and the counter-charges by Smith’s family, it’s not hard to envision this turning into a very nasty legal battle.