Goodwin v. Yeakle's Sports Bar & Grill, Inc.

Decision Date26 October 2016
Docket NumberNo. 27S02–1510–CT–627.,27S02–1510–CT–627.
Citation62 N.E.3d 384
Parties April GOODWIN, Tiffany Randolph and Javon Washington, Appellants (Respondents below), v. YEAKLE'S SPORTS BAR AND GRILL, INC., Appellee (Petitioner below).
CourtIndiana Supreme Court

Joe Keith Lewis, Marion, IN, Attorney for Appellants.

James J. Shea, Sr., Timothy W. DeGroote, Andrew S. Williams, Fort Wayne, IN, Attorneys for Appellee.

Lucy R. Dollens, Jacob V. Bradley, Quarles & Brady LLP, Donald B. Kite, Sr., Wuertz Law Office, LLC, Indianapolis, IN, Attorneys for Amicus Curiae Defense Trial Counsel of Indiana.

On Petition to Transfer from the Indiana Court of Appeals, No. 27A02–1407–CT–526

RUCKER, Justice.

Patrons injured after a shooting in a neighborhood bar sued the bar for negligence. The trial court granted summary judgment in the bar's favor concluding it owed no duty to the patrons because the shooting was not foreseeable as a matter of law. For the reasons that follow we agree and affirm.

Facts and Procedural History

In this summary judgment action, the undisputed facts most favorable to the non-moving party are these. During the late evening hours of August 27 and the early morning hours of August 28, 2010, April Goodwin, Tiffany Randolph, and Javon Washington (collectively Plaintiffs) were seated at a table, socializing with friends at Yeakle's Sports Bar and Grill, a small establishment in Marion, Indiana (hereafter “the Bar”). Another patron, Rodney Carter, was seated nearby with his wife. At some point Carter thought he heard Washington make a derogatory remark about Carter's wife. This angered Carter who produced a handgun and fired at Washington. He struck Washington and accidently struck Goodwin and Randolph as well. All three shooting victims survived; and Carter later pleaded guilty to three counts of battery with a deadly weapon.

Plaintiffs filed a complaint for damages against the Bar1 alleging negligence in “failing to provide security for its patrons; ... failing to search Rodney Carter for weapons; ... [and] failing to warn [P]laintiffs that Rodney Carter was armed and dangerous.” App. at 15. After the parties conducted discovery the Bar moved for summary judgment arguing Carter's criminal acts were unforeseeable and thus the Bar had no duty to anticipate and take steps to prevent Carter's conduct. After a hearing the trial court agreed and entered summary judgment in the Bar's favor. On review the Court of Appeals reversed the judgment of the trial court and remanded this cause for further proceedings. In so doing the Court declared, “reasonable foreseeability is not part of the analysis with respect to the Bar's duty” and noted this is “an issue that has created confusion at every level of our judiciary.” Goodwin v. Yeakle's Sports Bar and Grill, Inc., 28 N.E.3d 310, 311 (Ind.Ct.App.2015).2 Endeavoring to clarify the confusion, and having previously granted transfer, we now affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Standard of Review

When reviewing a grant or denial of a motion for summary judgment our well-settled standard of review is the same as it is for the trial court: whether there is a genuine issue of material fact, and whether the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Wagner v. Yates, 912 N.E.2d 805, 808 (Ind.2009). The party moving for summary judgment has the burden of making a prima facie showing that there is no genuine issue of material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Reed v. Reid, 980 N.E.2d 277, 285 (Ind.2012). Once these two requirements are met by the moving party, the burden then shifts to the non-moving party to show the existence of a genuine issue by setting forth specifically designated facts. Id. Any doubt as to any facts or inferences to be drawn therefrom must be resolved in favor of the non-moving party. Id. Summary judgment should be granted only if the evidence sanctioned by Indiana Trial Rule 56(C) shows there is no genuine issue of material fact and that the moving party deserves judgment as a matter of law. Freidline v. Shelby Ins. Co., 774 N.E.2d 37, 39 (Ind.2002).

Discussion
I.

[T]o prevail on a claim of negligence the plaintiff must show: (1) duty owed to plaintiff by defendant; (2) breach of duty by allowing conduct to fall below the applicable standard of care; and (3) compensable injury proximately caused by defendant's breach of duty.” King v. Ne. Sec., Inc., 790 N.E.2d 474, 484 (Ind.2003) ; accord Ford Motor Co. v. Rushford, 868 N.E.2d 806, 810 (Ind.2007). Absent a duty there can be no negligence or liability based upon the breach. Peters v. Forster, 804 N.E.2d 736, 738 (Ind.2004). Whether a duty exists is a question of law for the court to decide. Id.

For a period of at least over the past two decades or so our case law has been less than perfectly lucid in explaining how a court determines whether a duty exists in the context of a negligence claim. This journey began with Webb v. Jarvis, 575 N.E.2d 992 (Ind.1991). In that case, deciding whether a doctor owed a duty to a third party injured by the doctor's patient, we held that in order to determine whether a duty exists we employ a three-part balancing test: (1) the relationship between the parties; (2) the foreseeability of harm; and (3) public policy concerns. Id. at 995–97. This Court has periodically used this balancing test in analyzing the existence of duty in certain cases.3

Thereafter in a trilogy of opinions handed down together, and with only limited fidelity paid to the three-part Webb balancing test, this Court held that in analyzing whether a landowner owes an invitee a duty to take reasonable care to protect the invitee from foreseeable third-party criminal attacks, we consider the totality of the circumstances. L.W. v. W. Golf Ass'n, 712 N.E.2d 983, 984–85 (Ind.1999) ; Vernon v. Kroger Co., 712 N.E.2d 976, 979 (Ind.1999) ; and Delta Tau Delta v. Johnson, 712 N.E.2d 968, 973 (Ind.1999). This analysis included looking to “all of the circumstances surrounding an event, including the nature, condition, and location of the land, as well as prior similar incidents....” Delta Tau Delta, 712 N.E.2d at 972.

Four years later, in Northern Indiana Public Service Co. v. Sharp, 790 N.E.2d 462 (Ind.2003), we explained that although the Webb three-part balancing test is a useful tool in determining whether a duty exists, this is so “only in those instances where the element of duty has not already been declared or otherwise articulated.” Id. at 465. We noted for example there is no need to apply Webb to determine what duty a business owner owes its invitees because the law in this area had already been declared: “Proprietors owe a duty to their business invitees to use reasonable care to protect them from injury caused by other patrons and guests on their premises, including providing adequate staff to police and control disorderly conduct.” Sharp, 790 N.E.2d at 465 (alteration omitted) (quoting Muex v. Hindel Bowling Lanes, Inc., 596 N.E.2d 263, 266 (Ind.Ct.App.1992) ); see also Delta Tau Delta, 712 N.E.2d at 971 ([W]hile landowners are not to be made the insurers of their invitees' safety, landowners do have a duty to take reasonable precautions to protect their invitees from foreseeable criminal attacks.”).

Then, in Paragon Family Restaurant v. Bartolini, although reaffirming that [l]andowners have a duty to take reasonable precautions to protect their invitees from foreseeable criminal attacks,” we noted a “procedural inconsistency” between Sharp and the Western Golf, Vernon, and Delta Tau Delta trilogy on the question of whether a redetermination of duty is necessary where the general duty is otherwise well-settled. 799 N.E.2d 1048, 1052, 1053 (Ind.2003). In essence, on the one hand Sharp declared we need not redefine the duty owed by one party to another when that duty has already been defined or articulated, but on the other hand the trilogy required consideration of the totality of the surrounding circumstances to determine whether the criminal act was reasonably foreseeable. Concluding that Sharp provided the better view, we had this to say:

Where, as in this case, the alleged duty is well-established, there is no need for a new judicial redetermination of duty. The court's function was merely to adequately inform the jury of the applicable duty, and the jury was then to determine whether the Pub breached this duty of reasonable care to protect its invitees from foreseeable criminal attacks.

Bartolini, 799 N.E.2d at 1053. This language understandably could be read to mean that the trial court's sole responsibility with respect to the question of duty in a negligence action is simply to instruct the jury on the question—end of story. But such a reading is much too narrow. The very scope of the duty a landlord owes its invitees—to take reasonable precautions to protect invitees from foreseeable criminal acts—necessarily calls for the court's evaluation of foreseeability. In other words, the court must decide—in the context of duty—whether the criminal act is foreseeable. As we declared in Bartolini: “There is no doubt ... that reasonable foreseeability is an element of a landowner or business proprietor's duty of reasonable care. The issue is merely at what point and in what manner to evaluate the evidence regarding foreseeability.” Id.

We applied this principle in Kroger Co. v. Plonski, 930 N.E.2d 1 (Ind.2010). In that case a grocery store customer was assaulted in the store's parking lot. The store moved for summary judgment arguing among other things it owed no duty to the customer because the criminal assault was not reasonably foreseeable. Affirming the trial court's denial of the store's motion for summary judgment, we again emphasized, that although variously stated, the law in this area is settled: “Landowners have a duty to take reasonable precautions to protect their invitees from foreseeable criminal attacks.” Id. at 7 (quoting Bartolini, 799 N.E.2d at 1052 ). We went on...

To continue reading

Request your trial

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT