Caroselli, Beachler & Coleman, L.L.C.

A closer look at premises liability and outsider violence

Last month, our blog discussed how a jury awarded a 35-year-old man who suffered permanent brain damage during a parking lot assault at a St. Louis area Jack in the Box $20 million. While the idea of a customer filing a lawsuit against a restaurant for serious personal injuries sustained during an act of violence on its premises may sound like a relatively rare occurrence, it happens more often than you might think.

Consider Gray v. Denny's Corporation, a recent case out of the federal Second Circuit Court of Appeals, which examined whether a premises liability lawsuit filed by a customer who suffered serious personal injuries at the hands of other customers should be allowed to proceed.

According to the complaint, the victim asked staff at the Denny's restaurant in question if they would inform a group of unruly customers that they needed to quiet down. When the employees failed to act, the victim asked the customers herself and was beaten as a result.

In support of her contention that her injuries were entirely foreseeable, the victim produced evidence showing that Denny's own training materials specifically classified "disruptive" customers as the single largest cause of all "workplace violence," and that an internal presentation weighed the revenue from late night service versus possible premises liability lawsuits involving violence.

The victim also produced multiple police reports outlining violent incidents at the Denny's in question.

For their part, Denny's argued that the woman had provoked the assault because of her actions when confronting the unruly group of customers.

The court ultimately held that the lawsuit against Denny's could proceed. Specifically, it determined that the restaurant had a duty to keep customers -- or "invitees" -- safe from the otherwise foreseeable violent/criminal actions of third parties (i.e., other customers).

Here, they ruled that it was entirely foreseeable that the victim would ask the group to quiet down after employees failed to take action, and that the restaurant's own internal memoranda had acknowledged how profane speech frequently preceded violence.

If you have suffered life-changing personal injuries because of negligent security or lost a loved one because of otherwise hazardous conditions here in Pittsburgh, you should strongly consider speaking with an experienced attorney.

Source: The Huffington Post, "When Is a Business Liable for Outsider Violence on Its Premises?" Brad Reid, September 13, 2013

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Caroselli, Beachler & Coleman, L.L.C.
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Pittsburgh, PA 15222

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