Home > Featured Cases > A Preventable Accident

A Preventable Accident

Attorney Chris Hamilton was asked to help a suburban theater director after he was attacked in the parking lot of a local Target.

Derek Whitener is the artistic and education director of The Firehouse Theater in Farmers Branch, Texas. On January 14, 2017, he was confronted by two men in the parking lot of a Target in Uptown Dallas after stopping to pick up some groceries.


Inside the store, Derek told Target employees, including the head of security, what had happened. Despite the fact that he was clearly unnerved, the employees’ response to Derek was clear: Do not call the police. We’ll handle the situation ourselves.

The store’s head of security confronted the two men who had approached Derek and asked them to leave the premises. Derek was then told that it was safe to return to his car. As he walked through the parking lot, alone, the two men returned. Reports say that both were wearing gorilla masks. One of them said, “We hear that you fear us. We’re going to teach you what fear is.” The two men beat Derek with the wooden rod. He suffered a fractured skull and brain injury that left him with permanent damage. He has difficulty speaking and is unable to perform high-level motor tasks.


Derek was represented by Chris Hamilton, who filed suit against Target, as well as the location’s head of security and three other employees. Hamilton claimed that the store was negligent in failing to call police to deal with the situation, and then by allowing Derek to walk back to his car without an escort. Hamilton showed that Derek’s attack wasn’t an isolated case, and that from 2014-2017, more than 200 crimes had been reported in the immediate area.

Derek’s road to recovery will be long, and years later he still has a lot of hard work ahead of him. However, with the help of the attorneys at Hamilton Wingo, this chapter of his life was resolved and that work will hopefully be a little easier.