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Family of Accent Signage Victim Sues Company, Shooter's Estate

The family of Jake Beneke of Maple Grove says the company should have known shooter Andrew Engeldinger could turn violent. Wayzata man shot in the attack last year is not part of litigation.

In a lawsuit recently filed in Hennepin County court, the family of a man killed in last year's Accent Signage massacre is suing the company founded by the late St. Louis Park resident Reuven Rahamim.

The estate of shooter Andrew Engeldinger is also named as a defendant. Engledinger gunned down six co-workers in September 2012 after being fired, including Maple Grove resident Jake Beneke, whose family has filed the suit.

Wayzata resident John Souter—director of operations at Accent Signage Systems—was shot in the attack and hospitalized in serious condition. Souter was in the same room as Engeldinger when he began shooting. He is not involved in any legal action against Accent Signage. 

The lawsuit filed by Beneke's family alleges Accent Signage managers knew Engeldinger was an unstable and potentially violent person, and should have taken more precautions when firing him. In particular, the suit says Engeldinger should not have been given warning that he was being fired and been allowed to retrieve a gun from his car. The suit is seeking more than $50,000 in damages.

The lawsuit bases much of its argument on claims that Engeldinger threatened Beneke and other employees prior to the shootings, and that Beneke feared for his life as he left for work the day he was murdered.

A Star-Tribune report said there is not much hard evidence currently known that would support the suit's claims. MPR reports Engeldinger was disciplined several times for offensive behavior, poor job performance, and for tardiness.

An expert interviewed by the Star Tribune said the plaintiff's lawyer, Phil Villaume, faced an uphill battle proving Accent Signage managers were grossly negligent in how they dealt with Engeldinger's firing.

"It takes a very, very high level of culpability, almost to the nature of an intentional act," (attorney Peter Riley) said. "I've been doing this for 36 years, and I cannot recall a case where the facts were found to satisfy the gross negligence standard."

However, he said Beneke's family does have a case against Engeldinger's estate, although it's unclear whether the assets are worth much.

Reuven Rahamim's son, during President Barack Obama's State of the Union address at 8 p.m. Tuesday.

Accent Signage is a supplier of semiconductors and metering technologies for the Smart Grid industry.

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