Kentucky Fried Chicken of Cal., Inc. v. Superior Court, No. S051085

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court (California)
Writing for the CourtBAXTER; GEORGE; MOSK; KENNARD; WERDEGAR
Citation14 Cal.4th 814,59 Cal.Rptr.2d 756,927 P.2d 1260
Parties, 927 P.2d 1260, 65 USLW 2468, 97 Cal. Daily Op. Serv. 127, 97 Daily Journal D.A.R. 209 KENTUCKY FRIED CHICKEN OF CALIFORNIA, INC., Petitioner, v. The SUPERIOR COURT of Los Angeles County, Respondent; Kathy BROWN, Real Party in Interest
Docket NumberNo. S051085
Decision Date06 January 1997

Page 756

59 Cal.Rptr.2d 756
14 Cal.4th 814, 927 P.2d 1260, 65 USLW 2468,
97 Cal. Daily Op. Serv. 127,
97 Daily Journal D.A.R. 209
KENTUCKY FRIED CHICKEN OF CALIFORNIA, INC., Petitioner,
v.
The SUPERIOR COURT of Los Angeles County, Respondent;
Kathy BROWN, Real Party in Interest.
No. S051085.
Supreme Court of California
Jan. 6, 1997.

Page 757

[14 Cal.4th 817] [927 P.2d 1261] Genson, Even, Crandall & Wade, Edwin B. Brown, Irvine, Tod M. Castronovo, Woodland

Page 758

[927 P.2d 1262] Hills, and John P. Fuchs, Los Angeles, for Petitioner.

Sharon L. Browne, Sacramento, Anne M. Hawkins, Paul N. Halvonik, Berkeley, Fred J. Hiestand, Sacramento, Haight, Brown & Bonesteel, Roy G. Weatherup, Lyn Skinner Foster, Jon M. Kasimov, Santa Monica, Horvitz & Levy, Peter Abrahams, Julie L. Woods and Elizabeth Skorcz Anthony, Encino, as Amici Curiae on behalf of Petitioner.

No appearance for Respondent.

Richard F.G. Thomas, Hermosa Beach, for Real Party in Interest.

BAXTER, Justice.

We are asked to decide whether a shopkeeper owes a duty to a patron to comply with an armed robber's demand for money in order to avoid increasing the risk of harm to patrons. The Court of Appeal held that such a duty exists. Petitioner Kentucky Fried Chicken of California, Inc. (KFC), disagrees and argues that the decision of the Court of Appeal conflicts with that in Vandermost v. Alpha Beta Co. (1985) 164 Cal.App.3d 771, 210 Cal.Rptr. 613 (Vandermost ).

We conclude that a shopkeeper does not have a duty to comply with the unlawful demand of an armed robber that property be surrendered. Although the circumstances of this case differ from those considered by the Vandermost court, the reasoning of Vandermost and the authorities on which it relied are persuasive. Recognition of a duty to comply with an unlawful demand would be contrary to public policy as it would encourage similar unlawful conduct.

We shall, therefore, reverse the judgment of the Court of Appeal.

I

Background

This mandamus proceeding arises out of the denial of KFC's motion for summary judgment in a negligence action. Real party in interest Kathy Brown named KFC a defendant in a complaint seeking general and special damages for emotional distress, hospital and medical expenses, loss of [14 Cal.4th 818] wages, and loss of earning capacity. Brown alleged that she was a customer at a Redondo Beach restaurant operated by KFC when she was seized and held at gunpoint by an unidentified person who threatened to seriously injure Brown if employees of KFC did not give him the money in the cash register. The complaint alleged that an employee did not comply promptly with the robber's demands and that her delay and other actions caused further injury to plaintiff and resulted in additional threats of grave injury to Brown.

The complaint also alleged that KFC failed to provide proper security, and failed to properly train its employees in how to respond to criminal activity to avoid endangering or further endangering its customers.

KFC answered the complaint, denying all allegations of the complaint. As affirmative defenses KFC claimed, inter alia, that the complaint failed to state a cause of action because it had no duty to plaintiff to comply with a robber's unlawful demands. In the absence of the duty and breach of the duty elements, the complaint did not state a cause of action in negligence.

KFC then moved for summary judgment. (Code Civ.Proc., § 437c.)

It appears from documents offered in support of the motion for summary judgment that Brown was the only customer in the KFC restaurant when she was accosted by the robber, who put a gun to her back. She complied with his demands and surrendered her cash and her wallet to him. He then demanded that a clerk open the cash register and give him all of the money. The clerk did not do so. Instead, she said she would have to go to the back of the restaurant for a key. The robber then became extremely agitated, shoved his gun harder into Brown's back, and told the employee he would shoot Brown if the employee did not "quit playing games" and open the cash register immediately. Brown, who believed she was going to die because of the employee's actions, then "screamed" at the clerk to open the drawer and give the money to the robber, at which point the clerk complied and opened the cash register drawer. The robber seized the money and fled. The robber did not become agitated and angry until the cashier told him

Page 759

[927 P.2d 1263] that she would have to get the keys to the register. KFC was unaware at that time of any prior similar crimes or any crimes at this store.

KFC argued that it was entitled to judgment as a matter of law since it owed no duty of care to Brown to protect her against violent criminal acts of unknown third parties while on its premises, and that even if a duty of care was owed, no duty was breached by a failure to provide adequate security or properly train its employees to respond to criminal activity.

In a petition for writ of mandate by which it sought to overturn the order denying the motion for summary judgment, KFC argued only that it did not [14 Cal.4th 819] have a duty to Brown, a customer, to comply with the demands of the robber in order to avoid injury to Brown. Therefore, that is the only issue the Court of Appeal was called upon to address and is the one we address here.

II

Court of Appeal Decision/Vandermost

As the Court of Appeal recognized, the existence of a duty is a question of law for the court. (Ann M. v. Pacific Plaza Shopping Center (1993) 6 Cal.4th 666, 674, 25 Cal.Rptr.2d 137, 863 P.2d 207; Ramirez v. Plough (1993) 6 Cal.4th 539, 546, 25 Cal.Rptr.2d 97, 863 P.2d 167.) The Court of Appeal applied general principles applicable to the liability of a landowner or occupier for injury to persons on premises held open to the public. Under those general principles, when determining the existence and scope of the duty to protect business invitees from the criminal conduct of third parties, the court balances the foreseeability of the harm against the burden of the duty. If the burden is great, a high foreseeability of harm may be required, but a lesser degree of foreseeability may be required if " ' "there are strong policy reasons for preventing the harm, or the harm can be prevented by simple means." ' " (6 Cal.4th at p. 679, 25 Cal.Rptr.2d 137, 863 P.2d 207.)

The duty of a proprietor of a business establishment to business invitees generally includes a "duty to take affirmative action to control the wrongful acts of third persons which threaten invitees where the occupant 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.) 1 We recognized in Taylor that a business proprietor is not an insurer of an invitee's safety. There is a [14 Cal.4th 820] requirement, however, that reasonable care be taken for their safety, and liability exists for injuries resulting from a breach of that duty of reasonable care. (Ibid.)

When the liability of a landowner to persons on his or her property is in issue, additional factors are considered in determining whether a duty should be imposed and, if so, the extent of that duty. "Some factors that courts consider in determining the existence and scope of a duty in a particular case are: '[T]he foreseeability of harm to the plaintiff, the degree of certainty that the plaintiff suffered injury, the closeness of the connection between the defendant's conduct and the injury suffered, the moral blame

Page 760

[927 P.2d 1264] attached to the defendant's conduct, the policy of preventing future harm, the extent of the burden to the defendant and consequences to the community of imposing a duty to exercise care with resulting liability for breach, and the availability, cost, and prevalence of insurance for the risk involved.' " (Ann M. v. Pacific Plaza Shopping Center, supra, 6 Cal.4th at p. 675, fn. 5, 25 Cal.Rptr.2d 137, 863 P.2d 207, quoting Rowland v. Christian (1968) 69 Cal.2d 108, 113, 70 Cal.Rptr. 97, 443 P.2d 561.)

Although these rules had not heretofore been applied to create a duty to cooperate with an armed robber, the Court of Appeal concluded that a duty existed in the circumstances of this case. The court reasoned: A robbery was in progress. The robber was holding a gun to the back of the patron, demanding that the cashier open the cash register and give him the money. It was reasonably foreseeable that if the cashier did not cooperate with the robber the hostage would be terrorized and potentially shot to death. That foreseeability was made clear in crime prevention pamphlets distributed by the Redondo Beach Police Department, which were among the evidence offered in opposition to the motion for summary judgment. The pamphlets advised readers that they should never refuse an armed robber's demand for money, an admonition which implicitly recognized the likelihood of an increased risk of injury or death if the victim resisted the demand.

Applying the remaining factors this court identified in Ann M. v. Pacific Plaza Shopping Center, supra, 6 Cal.4th 666, 25 Cal.Rptr.2d 137, 863 P.2d 207, the Court of Appeal concluded that there was a high degree of certainty that the plaintiff suffered injury, that the injury was closely connected with the defendant's conduct, and that the burden on defendant of avoiding the injury by complying with the robber's demand was "slight."

KFC contends that this holding conflicts with that in Vandermost, supra, in which the Court of Appeal concluded that no duty to comply with a [14 Cal.4th 821] robber's demands should be imposed because adverse consequences to the public would result. There, the plaintiff was with a group of friends seated in a restaurant. He heard a commotion near the cash register and a sound like a firecracker. He went to investigate and saw Moreno...

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84 practice notes
  • Verdugo v. Target Corp., No. 10–57008.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (9th Circuit)
    • 28 Octubre 2014
    ...Court (1998) 18 Cal.4th 1143, 1147, 77 Cal.Rptr.2d 445, 959 P.2d 752; Kentucky Fried Chicken of Cal., Inc. v. Superior Court (1997) 14 Cal.4th 814, 822–824, 59 Cal.Rptr.2d 756, 927 P.2d 1260; Coulter v. Superior Court (1978) 21 Cal.3d 144, 152–154, 145 Cal.Rptr. 534, 577 P.2d 669.) Under th......
  • Verdugo v. Target Corp., No. 10–57008.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (9th Circuit)
    • 28 Octubre 2014
    ...Court (1998) 18 Cal.4th 1143, 1147, 77 Cal.Rptr.2d 445, 959 P.2d 752 ; Kentucky Fried Chicken of Cal., Inc. v. Superior Court (1997) 14 Cal.4th 814, 822–824, 59 Cal.Rptr.2d 756, 927 P.2d 1260 ; Coulter v. Superior Court (1978) 21 Cal.3d 144, 152–154, 145 Cal.Rptr. 534, 577 P.2d 669.) Under ......
  • Regents of the Univ. of Cal. v. Superior Court of L.A. Cnty., B259424
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • 7 Octubre 2015
    ...also Ann M., supra, 6 Cal.4th at p. 674, 25 Cal.Rptr.2d 137, 863 P.2d 207 ; Kentucky Fried Chicken of Cal., Inc. v. Superior Court (1997) 14 Cal.4th 814, 823–824, 59 Cal.Rptr.2d 756, 927 P.2d 1260 (Kentucky Fried Chicken ) [“[a] land occupier ‘must act as a reasonable person to avoid harm f......
  • Laico v. Chevron U.S.A., Inc., No. H025585.
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • 27 Octubre 2004
    ...section 1714 but to define the scope of the landowner's duty. (See, e.g., Kentucky Fried Chicken of Cal., Inc. v. Superior Court (1997) 14 Cal.4th 814, 820, 59 Cal.Rptr.2d 756, 927 P.2d 1260; Ann M. v. Pacific Plaza Shopping Center, supra, 6 Cal.4th at p. 675, fn. 5, 25 Cal. Rptr.2d 137, 86......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
84 cases
  • Verdugo v. Target Corp., No. 10–57008.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (9th Circuit)
    • 28 Octubre 2014
    ...Court (1998) 18 Cal.4th 1143, 1147, 77 Cal.Rptr.2d 445, 959 P.2d 752; Kentucky Fried Chicken of Cal., Inc. v. Superior Court (1997) 14 Cal.4th 814, 822–824, 59 Cal.Rptr.2d 756, 927 P.2d 1260; Coulter v. Superior Court (1978) 21 Cal.3d 144, 152–154, 145 Cal.Rptr. 534, 577 P.2d 669.) Under th......
  • Verdugo v. Target Corp., No. 10–57008.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (9th Circuit)
    • 28 Octubre 2014
    ...Court (1998) 18 Cal.4th 1143, 1147, 77 Cal.Rptr.2d 445, 959 P.2d 752 ; Kentucky Fried Chicken of Cal., Inc. v. Superior Court (1997) 14 Cal.4th 814, 822–824, 59 Cal.Rptr.2d 756, 927 P.2d 1260 ; Coulter v. Superior Court (1978) 21 Cal.3d 144, 152–154, 145 Cal.Rptr. 534, 577 P.2d 669.) Under ......
  • Regents of the Univ. of Cal. v. Superior Court of L.A. Cnty., B259424
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • 7 Octubre 2015
    ...also Ann M., supra, 6 Cal.4th at p. 674, 25 Cal.Rptr.2d 137, 863 P.2d 207 ; Kentucky Fried Chicken of Cal., Inc. v. Superior Court (1997) 14 Cal.4th 814, 823–824, 59 Cal.Rptr.2d 756, 927 P.2d 1260 (Kentucky Fried Chicken ) [“[a] land occupier ‘must act as a reasonable person to avoid harm f......
  • Laico v. Chevron U.S.A., Inc., No. H025585.
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • 27 Octubre 2004
    ...section 1714 but to define the scope of the landowner's duty. (See, e.g., Kentucky Fried Chicken of Cal., Inc. v. Superior Court (1997) 14 Cal.4th 814, 820, 59 Cal.Rptr.2d 756, 927 P.2d 1260; Ann M. v. Pacific Plaza Shopping Center, supra, 6 Cal.4th at p. 675, fn. 5, 25 Cal. Rptr.2d 137, 86......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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