Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Moye v. A.G. Gaston Motels, Inc. case brief summary

 Moye v. A.G. Gaston Motels, Inc. (Supreme Court of Alabama, 1986).
 
Rule of Law: Foreseeability must be shown by showing that there were prior criminal incidents that occurred at the premises and that the owner was or should have been aware of these incidents. The number and frequency of prior criminal acts at the place where the injury occurred are used to determine whether the crime was foreseeable.
 
Facts: Administer of P's estate is seeking damages from motel owner (D) for death of P. P was outside of motel after a dance. The dance had had several security measures such as the presence of four security guards, personnel checking IDs, searching for weapons, alcohol, and drugs, not permitting pass outs, and checking the motel area and parking lot periodically. After the dance, P was shot by a man who had attended the dance while waiting for her ride. There was a security guard on duty.
 
History: Trial court ruled in favor of the defendants. P appealed. Supreme Court of Alabama affirmed the trial court's ruling.
 
Issue(s): What constitutes sufficient evidence to put owner on notice that criminal acts were likely to occur, thereby imposing a duty to protect against those probable criminal acts
 
Holding: For D. There was not sufficient evidence for D to foresee that criminal acts were likely to occur.
 
Reasoning:
If there had been sufficient evidence, the P would have owed D a duty to P to protect against these acts. But this evidence is needed because the general rule is that "absent special relationships or circumstances, a person has no duty to protect another from criminal acts of a third person."
Two elements must be proven when suing for negligence/wantonness: 1) duty and 2) proximate cause. In either case foreseeability must be shown by showing that there were prior criminal incidents that occurred at the premises and that the owner was or should have been aware of these incidents. The number and frequency of prior criminal acts at the place where the injury occurred are used to determine whether the crime was foreseeable.
In this case there hadn't been a single criminal incident at any prior teen dance, making it clear that this act was not foreseeable. Evidence showing that there had been a murder in the lounge of the motel and a robbery of a guest room in the last 18 months was not considered sufficient as a matter of law to give rise to a duty to protect P.

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