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Goodwin v. Yeakle's Sports Bar and Grill, Inc.

Supreme Court of Indiana

October 26, 2016

April Goodwin, Tiffany Randolph and Javon Washington, Appellants (Respondents below),
v.
Yeakle's Sports Bar and Grill, Inc. Appellee (Petitioner below).

         Appeal from the Grant Superior Court I, No. 27D01-1105-CT-400 The Honorable Jeffrey D. Todd, Judge

         On Petition to Transfer from the Indiana Court of Appeals, No. 27A02-1407-CT-526

          Attorney for Appellants Joe Keith Lewis Marion, Indiana

          Attorneys for Appellee James J. Shea, Sr. Timothy W. DeGroote Andrew S. Williams Fort Wayne, Indiana

          Attorneys for Amicus Curiae Defense Trial Counsel of Indiana Lucy R. Dollens Jacob V. Bradley Quarles & Brady LLP Indianapolis, Indiana Donald B. Kite, Sr. Wuertz Law Office, LLC Indianapolis, Indiana

          Rucker, Justice.

         Patrons injured after a shooting in a neighborhood bar sued the bar for negligence. The trial court granted summary judgment in the bar's favor concluding it owed no duty to the patrons because the shooting was not foreseeable as a matter of law. For the reasons that follow we agree and affirm.

         Facts and Procedural History

         In this summary judgment action, the undisputed facts most favorable to the non-moving party are these. During the late evening hours of August 27 and the early morning hours of August 28, 2010, April Goodwin, Tiffany Randolph, and Javon Washington (collectively "Plaintiffs") were seated at a table, socializing with friends at Yeakle's Sports Bar and Grill, a small establishment in Marion, Indiana (hereafter "the Bar"). Another patron, Rodney Carter, was seated nearby with his wife. At some point Carter thought he heard Washington make a derogatory remark about Carter's wife. This angered Carter who produced a handgun and fired at Washington. He struck Washington and accidently struck Goodwin and Randolph as well. All three shooting victims survived; and Carter later pleaded guilty to three counts of battery with a deadly weapon.

         Plaintiffs filed a complaint for damages against the Bar[1] alleging negligence in "failing to provide security for its patrons; . . . failing to search Rodney Carter for weapons; . . . [and] failing to warn [P]laintiffs that Rodney Carter was armed and dangerous." App. at 15. After the parties conducted discovery the Bar moved for summary judgment arguing Carter's criminal acts were unforeseeable and thus the Bar had no duty to anticipate and take steps to prevent Carter's conduct. After a hearing the trial court agreed and entered summary judgment in the Bar's favor. On review the Court of Appeals reversed the judgment of the trial court and remanded this cause for further proceedings. In so doing the Court declared, "reasonable foreseeability is not part of the analysis with respect to the Bar's duty" and noted this is "an issue that has created confusion at every level of our judiciary." Goodwin v. Yeakle's Sports Bar and Grill, Inc., 28 N.E.3d 310, 311 (Ind.Ct.App. 2015).[2] Endeavoring to clarify the confusion, and having previously granted transfer, we now affirm the judgment of the trial court.

         Standard of Review

         When reviewing a grant or denial of a motion for summary judgment our well-settled standard of review is the same as it is for the trial court: whether there is a genuine issue of material fact, and whether the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Wagner v. Yates, 912 N.E.2d 805, 808 (Ind. 2009). The party moving for summary judgment has the burden of making a prima facie showing that there is no genuine issue of material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Reed v. Reid, 980 N.E.2d 277, 285 (Ind. 2012). Once these two requirements are met by the moving party, the burden then shifts to the non-moving party to show the existence of a genuine issue by setting forth specifically designated facts. Id Any doubt as to any facts or inferences to be drawn therefrom must be resolved in favor of the non-moving party. Id. Summary judgment should be granted only if the evidence sanctioned by Indiana Trial Rule 56(C) shows there is no genuine issue of material fact and that the moving party deserves judgment as a matter of law. Freidline v. Shelby Ins. Co., 774 N.E.2d 37, 39 (Ind. 2002).

         Discussion

         I.

         "[T]o prevail on a claim of negligence the plaintiff must show: (1) duty owed to plaintiff by defendant; (2) breach of duty by allowing conduct to fall below the applicable standard of care; and (3) compensable injury proximately caused by defendant's breach of duty." King v. Ne. Sec, Inc., 790 N.E.2d 474, 484 (Ind. 2003); accord Ford Motor Co. v. Rushford, 868 N.E.2d 806, 810 (Ind. 2007). Absent a duty there can be no negligence or liability based upon the breach. Peters v. Forster, 804 N.E.2d 736, 738 (Ind. 2004). Whether a duty exists is a question of law for the court to decide. Id

         For a period of at least over the past two decades or so our case law has been less than perfectly lucid in explaining how a court determines whether a duty exists in the context of a negligence claim. This journey began with Webb v. Jarvis, 575 N.E.2d 992 (Ind. 1991). In that case, deciding whether a doctor owed a duty to a third party injured by the doctor's patient, we held that in order to determine whether a duty exists we employ a three-part balancing test: (1) the relationship between the parties; (2) the foreseeability of harm; and (3) public policy concerns. Id. at 995-97. This Court has periodically used this balancing test in analyzing the existence of duty in certain cases.[3]

         Thereafter in a trilogy of opinions handed down together, and with only limited fidelity paid to the three-part Webb balancing test, this Court held that in analyzing whether a landowner owes an invitee a duty to take reasonable care to protect the invitee from foreseeable third-party criminal attacks, we consider the totality of the circumstances. L.W. v. W. Golf Ass'n, 712 N.E.2d 983, 984-85 (Ind. 1999); Vernon v. Kroger Co., 712 N.E.2d 976, 979 (Ind. 1999); and Delta Tau Delta v. Johnson, 712 N.E.2d 968, 973 (Ind. 1999). This analysis included looking to "all of the circumstances ...


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