In Solomon v. National Amusements, Inc., 128 AD3d 947 (App. Div. 2nd Dept. May 20, 2015) – a personal injury case arising from an assault on plaintiffs by fellow movie patrons – the court affirmed the denial of the movie theater owner’s motion for summary judgment.
Here’s the law:
A property owner must act in a reasonable manner to prevent harm to those on its premises, which includes a duty to control the conduct of persons on its premises when it has the opportunity to control such conduct, and is reasonably aware of the need to do so. However, the owner of a public establishment has no duty to protect patrons against unforeseeable and unexpected assaults.
Applying the law, the court explained:
Here, the defendants failed to make a prima facie showing that [theater owner] National was entitled to judgment as a matter of law. The defendants’ submissions included the deposition testimony of a security guard who indicated that in the year preceding the subject incident, there had been four or five other incidents in which disputes between patrons escalated into physical altercations. The defendants also submitted the deposition testimony of the plaintiffs, wherein they alleged that the physical assault upon them inside the theater lasted for approximately 15 to 20 minutes, during which time the plaintiff Yelena Solomon was screaming for help. Under these circumstances, the defendants failed to eliminate triable issues of fact as to whether the assault on the plaintiffs could have been reasonably anticipated and prevented.