In the case of Carter v. BMC HOJO, Inc., the Appellate Division, Second Department for the New York Court of Appeals reversed a lower court ruling that apportioned 100% of the blame for the plaintiff’s personal injuries on the defendant. Instead, the ruling was revised, stating BMC HOJO was only 65% responsible, with the other 35% being apportioned to the other defendant, Tevin Williams. As a result, the appellants were only responsible for 65% of the damages originally apportioned in the lower court.
The case of Carter concerns a woman who was sitting in a parked car in a parking lot one evening, when she was suddenly shot by Williams, sustaining a severe injury. She then commenced a lawsuit against Williams, who was the primary defendant, as well as BMC HOJO (hereinafter “the defendant-appellant”), who owned the parking lot where the shooting occurred. The plaintiff’s grounds for suing the defendant was that they had failed to take adequate precautions to prevent the shooting, which was a foreseeable occurrence.
When the case proceeded to trial in the Supreme Court, the court determined that 100% of the liability for the shooting laid at the feet of the defendant-appellant for their lack of security measures in the parking lot. This is because the parking lot was known to be a hot spot of various forms of criminal activity in the past, and yet there were almost no security measures in place to prevent crimes from taking place. However, the defendant-appellant appealed the ruling from the Supreme Court, claiming that the blame for the shooting should lay at the feet of the individual who actually shot the plaintiff, and thus the shooter should bear at least some of the liability.
The Second Department agreed to an extent with the defendant-appellant’s argument, noting that it was inappropriate for the lower court to place 100% of the liability on the defendant-appellant. However, it only apportioned 35% of the blame to the shooter, with the remaining 65% laying at the feet of the defendant-appellant. This is because the plaintiff originally demonstrated a prima facie case of negligence against the defendant-appellant, noting they had previously had issues with crime in the parking lot but had failed to implement security measures to prevent crime or protect people using the parking lot for its intended purpose.
While this was not the result of the defendant-appellant’s negligence, however, the plaintiff’s shooting was not their direct responsibility. But for the shooter’s actions, there would have been no shooting to begin with. As such, the Second Department said it believed it was more in line with the evidence to split up the liability for the shooting between the defendant-appellant and the shooter. While this is not a total victory for the defendant-appellant, it does substantially reduce the liability they face for the plaintiff’s injuries.