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Second Department Rules Against Owner of Local McDonald’s in Premises Liability Case

A unanimous panel of Second Department Justices upheld the decision of a lower court denying summary judgment in favor of the national food chain McDonald’s. The case was initially brought in the Supreme Court of Kings County after an individual was hurt in a McDonald’s main lobby.  The Plaintiff was standing in line waiting to order when two women behind him began to fight.  The man then attempted to break up the fight, and, following his intervention, onlookers began to assault him.  The Plaintiff brought the claim against the individual for the injuries suffered, along with the owner of the local McDonald’s for a failure to provide adequate security at the subject premises.

Following the commencement of the suit, the owner moved for summary judgment dismissing the complaint insofar as asserted against the corporation.  The Supreme Court of Kings County denied the motion, leading to the appeal to the Second Department.

In analyzing the case, the Court first noted the standard that a property owner is held to in the instant situation.  A property owner must act in a reasonable manner to prevent harm to those on its premises.  This duty includes a duty to control the conduct of the persons on its premises when it has an opportunity to control such conduct and is reasonably aware of the need to do so.  In elaborating on that standard, the Court cited the case of Giambruno v. Crazy Donkey Bar & Grill, which held that “an owner of a public establishment has no duty to protect patrons against unforeseeable and unexpected assaults.”

In applying the standard to the case at bar, the Court found that the owner did not eliminate all triable issues of fact within that standard.  Specifically, the owner failed to produce evidence that the assault of the Plaintiff could not have been reasonably anticipated and prevented.  The Court noted that there were multiple incidents in the restaurant that may have gone to the reasonableness of the anticipation.  For instance, there were 15 prior violent incidents that had occurred at that particular restaurant.  With that being said, the Court found that, as a matter of law, it cannot be said that the security measures taken by the defendant were sufficient to ensure the safety of the patrons on the date of the accident.

Because of the above, the Court did not even review the Plaintiff’s opposition papers to the defendant’s motion.  Instead, they held that the Plaintiff failed to demonstrate its prima facie entitlement to judgment as a matter of law.  Thus, the Appellate Division upheld the denial of the Plaintiff’s motion for summary judgment and remanded the case for trial.

To read a full copy of the Second Department’s decision, click here.

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