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Jones v. Wilson

Court of Appeals of Indiana

August 15, 2017

Crystal Jones, Appellant-Plaintiff,
v.
Jerry Wilson d/b/a Hoosier Pro Wrestling, Appellee-Defendant.

         Appeal from the Bartholomew Circuit Court The Honorable Stephen R. Heimann, Judge Trial Court Cause No. 03C01-1502-PL-531

          Attorneys for Appellant Robert M. Oakley Daniel K. Dilley Dilley & Oakley, P.C. Carmel, Indiana.

          Attorney for Appellee Keith A. Kinney Duffin, Hash & Coates, LLP Indianapolis, Indiana.

          Kirsch, Judge.

         [¶1] Jerry Wilson d/b/a Hoosier Pro Wrestling ("Wilson" or "HPW") promoted and presented a wrestling event, which was held in a building at the Bartholomew County Fairgrounds. Crystal Jones ("Jones") attended the wrestling event, and as she walked through the parking lot to her car at night, she was assaulted by an unknown assailant. Jones brought a negligence action against Wilson and Bartholomew County 4-H Fair, Inc., and, as is relevant here, the trial court granted summary judgment in favor of Wilson.[1] Jones appeals, raising the following restated issue: whether the trial court properly determined that Wilson did not owe a duty to Jones to protect her from the criminal acts of a third person that occurred in the parking lot.

         [¶2] We affirm.

         Facts and Procedural History

         [¶3] On June 7, 2014, Jones attended a live wrestling event that took place in the Family Arts building at the Bartholomew County Fairgrounds. The day before, Wilson entered into a contract with Bartholomew County 4-H Fair, Inc., specifically a Privilege Agreement ("the Agreement"), under which Wilson rented the Family Arts building for the wrestling event. Appellant's App. Vol. II at 33.

         [¶4] Jones arrived at approximately 5:30 p.m., and at around 11:00 p.m., she left the building, although the event was not yet over, to get some medication from her car. Jones stated that she used her flashlight on her cell phone to illuminate her path as the lights in the parking lot were not illuminated. As she walked alone through the parking lot to her vehicle, Jones was attacked by an unknown assailant and suffered injuries.

         [¶5] On February 2, 2015, Jones filed a complaint against Wilson and Bartholomew County 4-H Fair, Inc., alleging negligence. Id. at 7-10. She asserted that it was dark outside when she left the Family Arts building, she saw no security personnel around the immediate exterior of the building or in the parking lot, the lighting in the parking lot was not operating the night she was attacked, and Wilson "as the host and promoter of the event had a duty to Plaintiff, with respect to the maintenance and repair of facility and its condition with regard to the safety of attendees such as Plaintiff." Id. at 9. Jones claimed that Wilson breached his duty and that the lack of lighting, lack of security, and presence of alcohol proximately caused her injuries.

         [¶6] As is relevant here, Wilson filed a motion for summary judgment, later supplemented, asserting that he had no duty to Jones while she was in the parking lot to protect her from unforeseeable criminal acts of a third party. Wilson further argued that the Agreement did not place any obligation on Wilson to provide security for the parking areas around the building or to maintain the lighting in the parking area, which was owned by Bartholomew County 4-H Fair, Inc. Id. at 13-17, 24-28. Wilson designated the following evidence: (1) the Agreement; (2) Jones's complaint; (3) and excerpts of the deposition of Larry Fisher ("Fisher"), who was the president of the Bartholomew County Fair Board. Asserting that he owed no duty to Jones, Wilson claimed that he was entitled to judgment as a matter of law.

         [¶7] Jones filed her response to Wilson's summary judgment motion, and, in support, she relied upon the following evidence: portions of Wilson's deposition; Jones's responses to interrogatories; the complaint; portions of Fisher's deposition; and the Agreement.[2] In opposing summary judgment, she argued that summary judgment was not proper because material facts were in dispute as to whether the lights in the parking lot were functioning. She also asserted that Wilson had a duty to take reasonable precautions to protect business invitees, such as Jones, from foreseeable criminal acts and that, under the circumstances here, the attack was reasonably foreseeable where Jones had to walk through "a relatively secluded and unlit, grassy parking area." Id. at 23. She maintained that "this absence of exterior lighting is a condition of the land which contributed to the likelihood of the attack on [] Jones." Id. at 28. Following a hearing, the trial court issued an order granting Wilson's motion for summary judgment.[3] Jones now appeals.

         Discussion and Decision

         [¶8] 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. Goodwin v. Yeakle's Sports Bar & Grill, Inc.,62 N.E.3d 384, 386 (Ind. 2016). 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 that there is no genuine issue of material fact and the moving party deserves judgment as a matter of law. Freidline v. Shelby Ins. Co.,774 N.E.2d 37, 39 (Ind. 2002). The party appealing the grant of summary judgment has the burden of persuading this court that the trial court's ruling was ...


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