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Family of Ralph Yarl files civil suit against Andrew Lester, homeowners association

Ralph Yarl's family releases statement
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Posted at 10:37 AM, Apr 29, 2024

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The family of Ralph Yarl filed a civil lawsuit early Monday against Andrew Lester and the homeowner’s association in connection to the shooting in April 2023 that left Yarl severely injured.

In addition to criminal charges filed last year against Lester, Monday’s lawsuit states the 80-year-old and the Highland Acres Homes Association were careless and negligent in their actions leading to the April 13 shooting.

Yarl, who was in the area to pick up his siblings from a house, mistakenly went to the wrong address. Court documents revealed Yarl was shot while at the front door of Lester’s residence.

LINK | Read the civil lawsuit

Lester’s home, in the 1100 block of NE 111th Street in Kansas City, Missouri, is included in the Highland Acres Homes Association.

Yarl’s attorneys claim the homeowners association had a general duty “to refrain from careless and negligent conduct against others.”

More specifically, the lawsuit lists six “breaches” of duties by the homeowner’s association:

  • Failed to promulgate regulations sufficient to prevent its residents from firing a loaded weapon at a minor;
  • Failed to inform its residents of its expectations involving the use of firearms on Association grounds, including homes within the boundaries of the Association;
  • Allowed the existence of an atmosphere where Lester could shoot Yarl after he rang Lester’s doorbell;
  • Failed to inform or educate Lester about the dangers of discharging a loaded weapon within the grounds of the association;
  • Failed to render aid to Yarl after he was shot;
  • “Was otherwise careless and negligent.”

In both the claim against Lester and the homeowners association, attorneys are seeking a judgment in an amount in excess of the county’s jurisdictional limit, plus court costs.
Yarl, who was 16 at the time of the shooting, spoke with NBC News earlier this month, during which he thanked the community for its support and kindness.

'My life has bloomed': Ralph Yarl is striving for justice nearly 1 year since he was shot

He also said he hopes for continued discussion about violence.

“My hope is that justice will ultimately be served, and I’m encouraged by the increased priority on discourse about ending gun violence," he said.

In a statement addressing the civil suit, the Yarl family said they hope to ensure what happened to Ralph is a "catalyst for change."

"Today, on behalf of my son and nephew Ralph Yarl, we stand before you to announce a significant step towards justice and accountability. The attorney, Lee Merritt, representing Ralph, has taken the necessary action by filing a civil case in Clay County Court. This legal recourse is not merely about seeking accountability but ensuring that what happened to Ralph is a catalyst for change.

"It's disheartening that a year has passed without tangible progress or accountability for the grave injustice inflicted upon Ralph. No child should fear for their life simply for innocently ringing a doorbell at the wrong house. This incident not only shattered our family but also exposed a critical gap in our societal fabric, where the safety of our children is jeopardized by reckless actions.

"Through this civil suit, we aim to spark a dialogue on the importance of responsible gun ownership and community safety measures of using words, not weapons. It's not just about seeking financial compensation; it's about holding all parties involved accountable and ensuring that steps are taken to prevent such tragedies from occurring again.

"Including the homeowner’s association (HOA) in this lawsuit underscores the importance of collective responsibility in safeguarding our communities. Their knowledge of a potentially dangerous individual in the neighborhood without taking adequate precautions is unacceptable. This case is not just about seeking justice for Ralph but about advocating for systemic changes that prioritize the safety and well-being of all children.

"We refuse to let Ralph's suffering be in vain. His ordeal must serve as a wake-up call for our nation to prioritize child safety and enact meaningful reforms to protect our youth from gun violence. We hope this civil suit will ignite a nationwide movement toward creating safer environments for our children to thrive without fear."
Yarl family

Monday’s lawsuit was filed by local counsel Clinton Adams, Jr. in Clay County Circuit Court and assigned to Judge Shane Terril Alexander. Attorneys S. Lee Merritt and Cannon D. Lambert are also listed as representing Yarl's family.