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Massachusetts Court of Appeals Agrees That Summary Judgment Was Appropriate Following Stabbing in Theater Parking Lot

There are many different circumstances through which a Cape Cod premises liability lawsuit may arise. In a “slip and fall” case, a person may be injured due to a fall caused by a slippery substance on the floor of a grocery store or poorly constructed stairs outside a public building. If the property owner breached the duty of care owed to the plaintiff, the plaintiff may be able to recover money damages to compensate him or her for medical costs, lost wages, and other losses caused by the injury.

In a negligent security case, a property owner may be held liable for failing to protect the plaintiff from harm caused by a third party – typically a criminal whose intentional actions harm to the plaintiff. Such cases can be challenging, as the defendant typically attempts to shift the blame away from itself and onto the third party.

Facts of the Case

In a recent case, the plaintiff was a man who was stabbed while waiting in his car for a friend outside a theater in 2011. The man sued the theater (and its parent companies), alleging that they were negligent in failing to provide police detail on the theater premises. (The plaintiff’s stabbing occurred on a Tuesday evening about 10 p.m. For some years prior to 2008 or 2009, the defendants had police detail on their premises seven nights a week, but they then restricted the detail to Friday, Saturday, and Sunday evenings only.)

The defendants filed a motion for summary judgment. The trial court granted the defendants’ motion, agreeing with them that the plaintiff’s stabbing was not reasonably foreseeable.

The Decision of the Court

The Commonwealth of Massachusetts Appeals Court affirmed, noting that, as a general rule, landowners such as the defendants herein are not required to take affirmative steps to protect patrons from the dangerous or unlawful acts of third parties. Although exceptional circumstances can arise in rare cases such that a duty does exist, this is so only if the defendant landowner knew of – or should have known of – the potential for violence. Because the stabbing giving rise to the plaintiff’s claim was not reasonably foreseeable, the appellate court agreed that the defendants were entitled to summary judgment.

Although there was some evidence of nonviolent crimes in the vicinity of the defendants’ property, there was no evidence of prior stabbings or other violent incidents. While some violent incidents had been reported at a nearby establishment, the plaintiff was unable to prove that this activity “leaked” to the defendants’ premises.

Schedule a Free Legal Consultation

Cases seeking compensation for injuries suffered on business properties are very fact-specific. If you or a loved one has been harmed due to a business owner’s negligence or failure to take reasonable precautions to protect patrons against a third party’s criminal action, you should talk to an attorney about your specific situation. To schedule a free, confidential consultation with an experienced Cape Cod negligent security attorney, call the Law Offices of John C. Manoog, III, at 888-262-6664. We serve injured persons throughout Hyannis, Plymouth, and the surrounding area.

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