Archive for the ‘Security’ Category

Front Row Seats – Woman Injured by Stampede in Overcrowded Movie Theater; Crowd Control Liability for the Jury (NY)

August 27, 2015

Sachar v. Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc. (New York)

Plaintiff was escorting a group of teenagers to see a free screening of a movie.   Plaintiff’s group was directed to an upper level to find seat, but was then told to turn around and go downstairs.  As the group was returning, there was a sudden stampede of people rushing from behind.  The assistant manager of the movie theater confirmed that there appeared to have been a stampede, and an employee of the movie studio that produced the movie testified that the event was overbooked to ensure that the theater was filled to capacity.

As a result of the stampede, plaintiff was pushed forward and she was “hurled in the air,” suffering personal injury.  Plaintiff filed a lawsuit against both the movie theater and the movie studio.  The defendants filed motions for summary judgment, which were granted by the trial court.  Plaintiff filed a motion to reargue the motions, and upon re-argument, the trial court denied the defendants’ motion.  The defendants then appealed.

On appeal, the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court affirmed the decision.  The Court explained that “[u]nder the circumstances presented, involving the deliberate overbooking of a theater for a free film screening, defendants were required to show that they took adequate crowd control measures to address the foreseeable risks to those attending in order to meet their prima facie burden of demonstrating entitlement to summary judgment.”  However, the defendants failed to present evidence that adequate crowd control measure were in place at the time of the incident.  The Court also stated that “the deposition testimony also creates an issue of fact as to [the movie studio’s] specific security duties, as sponsors of the event, at the screening.”


No More Bling

May 12, 2011

Guivi v. Spectrum Club (California – UNPUBLISHED)
(A health club member had jewelry allegedly stolen from a locker while she was receiving a message; the court found that the membership application with waiver and release and assumption of the risk language precluded her claim for negligence; no evidence of gross negligence was established.)

The plaintiff had valuable jewelry stolen from her gym locker while she was getting a message. She sued the health club for negligence in providing facilities and for negligently training staff for the security of her property. The health club moved for summary judgment based on the membership application agreement with waiver and release language that the plaintiff signed with the health club. The application also specifically included language warning the plaintiff about loss or theft of her property, and expressly stated that the health club was not responsible for lost or stolen articles. According to the agreement, the lockers were offered to the member without any representation that they will be effective in protecting valuables. The trial court granted the defendant’s motion, and the plaintiff appealed.

On appeal, the Court ruled that the membership agreement unambiguously released the facility from its negligence and was not contrary to public policy. The Court did not accept plaintiff’s argument that agreements involving health clubs are matters of public interest. Further, the court noted that there was no alleged violation of law. Additionally, the Court did not accept the plaintiff’s argument that there was the potential for gross negligence or that the health club failed to deal with a known theft problem. No evidence had been presented in that regard.

NOTE: The ruling in this case is consistent with California law which provides that broad releases of liability will be enforced in this context, including with regard to ordinary premises liability claims as opposed to injury or damage that occurs directly as the result of participation in hazardous recreational activities. Had there been an obvious track record of items being stolen from members or a repeated pattern of a complete lack of security on the part of the health club, this case may have proceeded to trial on the factual issue of whether the facility engaged in grossly negligent conduct.

Insurance Company “Cutz” Barbershop’s Defense

July 6, 2008

Scottsdale Insurance Company v. Cutz, LLC (Florida)
(Insurer Had No Duty to Defend Lessor of Premises in Negligent Security Lawsuit.)

In September 2003, two men were shot to death at a Cutz, LLC (Cutz) barbershop. Personal representatives of the deceased men brought suit against Cutz (the lessee) and G&G Laboratories (the lessor of the premises), seeking damages for wrongful death and negligence based upon a failure to provide security at the barbershop. Cutz was the named insured under an insurance policy issued by Scottsdale Insurance Company (Scottsdale). Both Cutz and G&G Laboratories (G&G) tendered their defense and requested indemnity from Scottsdale. Scottsdale sought a declaration from the Court that it was not responsible for G&G.