Isaacs v. Huntington Memorial Hospital

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court (California)
Writing for the CourtBIRD
Citation695 P.2d 653,211 Cal.Rptr. 356,38 Cal.3d 112
Parties, 695 P.2d 653, 53 USLW 2464 Mervyn ISAACS et al., Plaintiffs and Appellants, v. HUNTINGTON MEMORIAL HOSPITAL et al., Defendants and Respondents. L.A. 31983
Decision Date28 February 1985

Page 356

211 Cal.Rptr. 356
38 Cal.3d 112, 695 P.2d 653, 53 USLW 2464
Mervyn ISAACS et al., Plaintiffs and Appellants,
v.
HUNTINGTON MEMORIAL HOSPITAL et al., Defendants and Respondents.
L.A. 31983.
Supreme Court of California
Feb. 28, 1985.

Page 357

[38 Cal.3d 120] [695 P.2d 654] David M. Harney, Los Angeles, B.V. Yturbide, San Francisco, for plaintiffs and appellants.

Peter Abrahams, Los Angeles, for defendants and respondents.

Page 358

BIRD, Chief Justice.

This court must decide whether a plaintiff, in an action against a landowner for criminal acts of third persons on the landowner's property, may establish foreseeability other than by evidence of prior similar incidents on those premises.

I.

Plaintiff, Mervyn Isaacs, is an anesthesiologist affiliated with defendant, Huntington Memorial Hospital, a private hospital located in Pasadena. On March 26, 1978, at approximately 8:30 p.m., Dr. Isaacs arrived at the hospital with his wife. He parked their car in the hospital's research parking lot which was located across the street from the emergency room and the physicians' entrance to the hospital. The lot was open "to anyone who wished to park there." While his wife was visiting a friend at the hospital, Dr. Isaacs saw some of his patients who were to undergo surgery.

About 10 p.m., Dr. Isaacs, his wife and a family friend left the building and went to the Isaacs' car. While Dr. Isaacs was moving some belongings from the back seat to the trunk, Ms. Isaacs and the friend got into the car. As he was closing the lid to the trunk, Dr. Isaacs was grabbed from behind by a man who held a gun to the doctor's chest. Dr. Isaacs put up his hands and began to turn around very slowly. At that point, the assailant shot the doctor in the chest. The gunman then fled the scene and was never apprehended.

As a result of the shooting, Dr. Isaacs sustained severe injuries, including the loss of a kidney. He and his wife brought an action against the hospital and its insurance carrier, Truck Insurance Exchange (hereafter Exchange). The Isaacs alleged that the hospital failed to provide adequate security measures to protect its invitees and licensees against the criminal acts of third persons on its premises. Exchange was negligent, they contended, for participating in the hospital's decision to disarm its security guards. Plaintiffs [38 Cal.3d 121] alleged that this decision directly contributed to the inadequacy of the security measures.

Both the hospital and Exchange filed motions for summary judgment. The trial court granted Exchange's motion and denied the hospital's. The case proceeded to trial, and plaintiffs introduced the following evidence.

Harold Bastrup, a security consultant, testified that the hospital was located in a "high crime area." He based this conclusion on incident reports from the hospital and the Pasadena Police Department. Numerous assaults or threatened assaults had occurred on the hospital premises during the three years preceding Dr. Isaacs's shooting. 1

Among those incidents were several threatened assaults with deadly weapons in the emergency room area across from the research parking lot. In September of 1977, a man pulled out a knife and threatened to cut another person's head off. A security guard, displaying a baton, attempted to talk the assailant into dropping the knife. The guard's efforts were futile until he pulled out his gun. In January of 1977, a man with a knife threatened to assault a person in the hospital emergency room. In March of that same year, a person brandished a rifle in the emergency room. The security guards were able to disarm him.

Plaintiffs also presented evidence of thefts in the vicinity. In August of 1976, a purse snatching occurred near the hospital. In September of 1977, a person grabbed money from a counter in the hospital and ran away.

In addition, a security guard for the hospital testified that incidents involving harassment of persons in the emergency area were "very common." In September

Page 359

[695 P.2d 656] of 1977, one such incident, which occurred in front of the emergency room, involved 10 to 12 male adults who were "disturbing the peace [and] drinking."

Testimony was also offered concerning the danger associated with emergency room areas. David Wright, the former director of security at a different hospital, testified that emergency rooms, surrounding areas, and nearby parking lots are the areas with the "highest potential for violent acts." He noted that such areas are "subject to a lot of criminal elements."

Hospital personnel conceded that the emergency room area was frequented by persons under the influence of drugs and alcohol. Dr. Charles Bergquist,[38 Cal.3d 122] who was at the hospital on the night of the shooting, testified that upon entering the hospital that night, "many people [were] milling around ... drinking out of bottles and brown paper packages." Dr. Bergquist described the scene as "scary" and "physically threatening." He also testified that this was not unusual activity.

Plaintiffs also presented evidence concerning security. At the time of the shooting, the hospital had three security guards on duty. One guard was stationed inside the emergency room entrance at the visitor control desk. Another guard was stationed in the employee parking lot, which was located a considerable distance from both the emergency area and the research parking lot. 2 The third guard was on roving patrol on the second floor in one of the buildings.

The guards were unarmed. 3 They wore uniforms and carried flashlights but no nightsticks or mace. Guard dogs were not used.

The hospital also had numerous television cameras at various locations around the hospital to monitor activity in those areas. With the exception of one camera which covered the employee parking lot, all of the cameras were used to view activity inside the hospital.

An escort service was available to protect hospital staff. However, there was conflicting evidence as to whether this service had ever been used by or was known to the doctors.

Evidence was presented concerning the lighting in the research parking lot on the night of the incident. Two lights on the side of the research building, which normally provided some of the light in the research parking lot, were not lit. The testimony as to the lighting conditions in the research parking lot was in conflict. Two witnesses described it as "poor," "dim," and "very dimly lighted." However, two other witnesses said it was "good" and "fair to good."

Finally, plaintiffs presented testimony from two experts in security matters. Both concluded that the hospital's security on the night of the shooting was "totally inadequate." They based their conclusions on (1) the insufficient number of guards, in view of the responsibilities assigned to them and [38 Cal.3d 123] the size of the premises; 4 (2) inadequate administration of the security force; (3) failure to arm the guards with defensive weapons; (4) inadequate television monitoring of the parking lot areas; (5) a lack of any means of communication with the police department on an emergency basis; and (6) an absence of signs warning that the area was guarded. One expert concluded that these aspects rendered the research parking lot "totally devoid of any

Page 360

[695 P.2d 657] deterrents or security" on the night of the shooting.

At the close of plaintiffs' case in chief, the hospital moved for nonsuit. The trial court granted the motion and entered judgment in the hospital's favor on the ground that there was insufficient evidence to find the hospital liable.

The court concluded that "plaintiffs failed to introduce evidence essential to prove the following elements of their case: [p] (a) Notice of prior crimes of the same or similar nature in the same or similar portion of defendant's premises; [p] (b) The reasonable foreseeability of the subject crime occurring; [p] (c) The minimum standards of security for premises similar to those of defendant for the period of time and locality involved; [and] [p] (d) Any proof of causation...."

Plaintiffs appeal from that judgment and from the summary judgment entered in favor of Exchange.

II.

The primary question presented by this appeal is whether foreseeability, for the purposes of establishing a landowner's liability for the criminal acts of third persons on the landowner's property, may be established other than by evidence of prior similar incidents on those premises. Since foreseeability is of primary importance in establishing the element of duty (Weirum v. RKO General, Inc. (1975) 15 Cal.3d 40, 46, 123 Cal.Rptr. 468, 539 P.2d 36), it is helpful to review the law in this area.

It is well settled that an owner of land has a duty "to take affirmative action to control the wrongful acts of third persons which threaten invitees where the [owner] has reasonable cause to anticipate such acts and the probability of injury resulting therefrom." (Taylor v. Centennial Bowl, Inc. (1966) 65 Cal.2d 114, 121, 52 Cal.Rptr. 561, 416 P.2d 793.) This duty is premised on the special relationship between the landowner and the invitee [38 Cal.3d 124] (see Rest.2d Torts, §§ 314A, 315) and the general duty to exercise reasonable care in the management of one's property (see Civ.Code, § 1714, subd. (a); 5 Peterson v. San Francisco Community College Dist. (1984) 36 Cal.3d 799, 806-807, 205 Cal.Rptr. 842, 685 P.2d 1193).

"It has long been recognized that 'a possessor of land who holds it open to the public for entry for business purposes is subject to liability to members of the public while they are upon the land for such a purpose, for physical harm caused by the accidental, negligent or intentionally harmful acts of third persons ... and by the failure of the possessor to exercise reasonable care to (a) discover that such acts are being done or are likely to be done, or (b) give a warning adequate to enable the visitors to avoid the...

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269 practice notes
  • Verdugo v. Target Corp., No. 10–57008.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (9th Circuit)
    • October 28, 2014
    ...e.g., Taylor v. Centennial Bowl, Inc. (1966) 65 Cal.2d 114, 52 Cal.Rptr. 561, 416 P.2d 793; Isaacs v. Huntington Memorial Hospital (1985) 38 Cal.3d 112, 211 Cal.Rptr. 356, 695 P.2d 653; Ann M. v. Pacific Plaza Shopping Center (1993) 6 Cal.4th 666, 25 Cal.Rptr.2d 137, 863 P.2d 207 ( Ann M.);......
  • Verdugo v. Target Corp., No. 10–57008.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (9th Circuit)
    • October 28, 2014
    ...Taylor v. Centennial Bowl, Inc. (1966) 65 Cal.2d 114, 52 Cal.Rptr. 561, 416 P.2d 793 ; Isaacs v. Huntington Memorial Hospital (1985) 38 Cal.3d 112, 211 Cal.Rptr. 356, 695 P.2d 653 ; Ann M. v. Pacific Plaza Shopping Center (1993) 6 Cal.4th 666, 25 Cal.Rptr.2d 137, 863 P.2d 207 (Ann M. ); 770......
  • Alpert v. Villa Romano Homeowners Assn., No. B118182.
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • May 31, 2000
    ...Pacific Plaza Shopping Center (1993) 6 Cal.4th 666, 678, 25 Cal.Rptr.2d 137, 863 P.2d 207; Isaacs v. Huntington Memorial Hospital (1985) 38 Cal.3d 112, 125, 211 Cal.Rptr. 356, 695 P.2d 653.) The foreseeability of a particular plaintiff's injury is a question of fact. (Isaacs, at p. 126, 211......
  • Pool v. City of Oakland, S.F. 24860
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (California)
    • December 29, 1986
    ...fact determines whether a defendant's conduct satisfies the applicable standard of care. (Isaacs v. Huntington Memorial Hospital (1985) 38 Cal.3d 112, 131, 211 Cal.Rptr. 356, 695 P.2d 653; Ewing v. Cloverleaf Bowl, supra, 20 Cal.3d at p. 399, 143 Cal.Rptr. 13, 572 P.2d 1155; see generally, ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
269 cases
  • Verdugo v. Target Corp., No. 10–57008.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (9th Circuit)
    • October 28, 2014
    ...e.g., Taylor v. Centennial Bowl, Inc. (1966) 65 Cal.2d 114, 52 Cal.Rptr. 561, 416 P.2d 793; Isaacs v. Huntington Memorial Hospital (1985) 38 Cal.3d 112, 211 Cal.Rptr. 356, 695 P.2d 653; Ann M. v. Pacific Plaza Shopping Center (1993) 6 Cal.4th 666, 25 Cal.Rptr.2d 137, 863 P.2d 207 ( Ann M.);......
  • Verdugo v. Target Corp., No. 10–57008.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (9th Circuit)
    • October 28, 2014
    ...Taylor v. Centennial Bowl, Inc. (1966) 65 Cal.2d 114, 52 Cal.Rptr. 561, 416 P.2d 793 ; Isaacs v. Huntington Memorial Hospital (1985) 38 Cal.3d 112, 211 Cal.Rptr. 356, 695 P.2d 653 ; Ann M. v. Pacific Plaza Shopping Center (1993) 6 Cal.4th 666, 25 Cal.Rptr.2d 137, 863 P.2d 207 (Ann M. ); 770......
  • Alpert v. Villa Romano Homeowners Assn., No. B118182.
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • May 31, 2000
    ...Pacific Plaza Shopping Center (1993) 6 Cal.4th 666, 678, 25 Cal.Rptr.2d 137, 863 P.2d 207; Isaacs v. Huntington Memorial Hospital (1985) 38 Cal.3d 112, 125, 211 Cal.Rptr. 356, 695 P.2d 653.) The foreseeability of a particular plaintiff's injury is a question of fact. (Isaacs, at p. 126, 211......
  • Pool v. City of Oakland, S.F. 24860
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (California)
    • December 29, 1986
    ...fact determines whether a defendant's conduct satisfies the applicable standard of care. (Isaacs v. Huntington Memorial Hospital (1985) 38 Cal.3d 112, 131, 211 Cal.Rptr. 356, 695 P.2d 653; Ewing v. Cloverleaf Bowl, supra, 20 Cal.3d at p. 399, 143 Cal.Rptr. 13, 572 P.2d 1155; see generally, ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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