Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Nail v. Jefferson County Truck Growers Assoc. Inc./Soujourner v. Jefferson County Truck Growers Assoc. Inc. case brief summary

Nail v. Jefferson County Truck Growers Assoc. Inc./Soujourner v. Jefferson County Truck Growers Assoc. Inc. (Supreme Court of Alabama, 1988)
RULE OF LAW: D owes a duty to protect P from third-party criminal acts if D should have foreseen the probability of such acts. Furthermore, if there is a scintilla of evidence for the non-motioning party, JNOV is improper.

FACTS: Nail subleased four blocks from the famers' market (D). There had been a growing feud between Nail and another retailer. The other retailer, Nail and Soujourner all informed the farmers' market manager about the "growing rancor." The farmers' market hired an extra security guard, but the day of the shooting a guard had gone home sick, so the extra guard was filling in for him. No additional guard was called in. Nail and the other retailer were involved in the shootout (i.e. both participating) and Soujourner was trying to escape. Retailer & Retailer Employee (Nail & Soujourner, (P) & (P)) are suing D for injuries sustained in a shootout between competing retailers that occurred on D's land (that P was leasing).
HISTORY: Trial Court granted D judgment (re: negligence) "notwithstanding verdict" and ruled for a new trial on other charges
ISSUE: Did the farmers' market owe a duty to both plaintiffs to prevent injury from another one of its tenants? {Whether the trial court properly granted JNOV as to P's negligence claims}
HOLDING: Court affirmed trial court's judgment against Nail, but reversed trial court's judgment against Soujourner.
REASONING: The appropriate rule in this case is that "unless [the D] knows or have reason to know that acts are occurring or about to occur on the premises that pose imminent probability of harm to an invitee; whereupon a duty of reasonable care to protect against such act arises." P will have to prove the D knew that criminal activity was a probability. There is sufficient evidence that D should have known that there was a probability that this dangerous activity was possible (Market was informed and knew for several weeks that this feud was growing, why it was growing, and who was involved). Because of this, JNOV would be improper. There is a scintilla of proof that D had a duty of reasonable care to protect P, which D failed to exercise when it did not call in an extra security guard.
Because Nail was participating in the shootout, the court concluded that he was guilty of contributory negligence (he fulfilled all elements needed: 1) knowledge of the condition, 2) appreciation of the danger, and 3) failed to exercise reasonable care. Soujourner was not participating, however, and was trying to escape (making element #3 unfulfilled)
DISCUSSION: Nail also made four other charges against the Farmers' market, but they were not directly applicable to duty/negligence. Court said that if a "scintilla of evidence" is present in favor of the non-moving party, a JNOV is improper.

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