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Buddy & Pals III, Inc. v. Falaschetti

Court of Appeals of Indiana

January 18, 2019

Buddy & Pals III, Inc., Buddy & Pals II, Inc., Buddy & Pals Inc., Timothy Heidbreder, and William Frank Bailey, Jr., Appellants-Defendants,
v.
Christopher Falaschetti, Appellee-Plaintiff

          Appeal from the Lake Superior Court Trial Court Cause No. 45D04-1410-CT-186 The Honorable Bruce D. Parent, Judge, The Honorable Steven King, Senior Judge

          Attorneys for Appellants J. Thomas Vetne Amanda N. Zaluckyj Jones Obenchain, LLP South Bend, Indiana

          Attorney for Appellee Benjamen W. Murphy Griffith, Indiana

          Crone, Judge.

         Case Summary

         [¶1] Shortly after he was ejected via the back door of Buddy & Pals sports bar for fighting, William Frank Bailey, Jr., punched Christopher Falaschetti outside the front entrance. Falaschetti filed a personal injury action against Buddy & Pals III, Inc., Buddy & Pals II, Inc., Buddy & Pals Inc., owner Timothy Heidbreder (collectively "Buddy & Pals"), and Bailey.[1] In this interlocutory appeal, Buddy & Pals challenges the denial of its motion for summary judgment on Falaschetti's negligence claim. Finding that Buddy & Pals failed to establish as a matter of law that it did not owe Falaschetti a duty to protect him from Bailey's criminal act, we affirm the denial of summary judgment.

         Facts and Procedural History

         [¶2] One night in January 2013, Falaschetti was socializing with friends at Buddy & Pals sports bar while waiting for his girlfriend to finish a work-related promotional event there. Bailey also was at Buddy & Pals that night with his fiancée and consumed numerous alcoholic beverages over a three-hour period. At one point, Bailey saw a man talking to his fiancée, so he approached and placed his hand on the man's shoulder. The man threw Bailey to the ground, and Buddy & Pals' bouncers intervened. A bouncer known as Joe put Bailey in a chokehold. Bailey forcibly tried to pull away to get to the man who had shoved him. He described himself as "a danger" to Joe and to everyone in his way. Appellants' App. Vol. 3 at 19. Joe ejected Bailey via the back door and threw him to the pavement. The other man was briefly detained pending Bailey's departure and then ejected via the front door. Bailey approached the back door again, but another bouncer punched him in the eye and slammed the door. Concerned that Bailey might try to re-enter through the front entrance, Joe apprised the front-area bouncers of the situation. About a minute later, Bailey rounded the corner toward the front of the building in search of the man who had initially shoved him.

         [¶3] Meanwhile, Falaschetti and his girlfriend exited the bar via the front door. Believing Falaschetti to be the man who had shoved him, Bailey punched Falaschetti, causing him to suffer a broken jaw, severe headaches, dizziness, neck pain, and optic nerve inflammation. Bailey initially panicked and fled, but when he heard someone shout that he had hit the wrong guy, he returned and was arrested.

         [¶4] In January 2015, Falaschetti filed a personal injury action against Buddy & Pals and Bailey. After extensive discovery, Buddy & Pals filed a motion for summary judgment as to Falaschetti's negligence claim, [2] asserting that it owed Falaschetti no duty to protect him from Bailey's criminal act. The trial court conducted a hearing and issued an order denying Buddy & Pals' summary judgment motion. Buddy & Pals sought and was granted certification of the order for interlocutory appeal, and we accepted jurisdiction. Additional facts will be provided as necessary.

         Discussion and Decision

         [¶5] Buddy & Pals challenges the denial of its motion for summary judgment. We review a court's ruling on a summary judgment motion de novo, applying the same standard as the trial court and drawing all reasonable inferences in favor of the nonmoving party. Hughley v. State, 15 N.E.3d 1000, 1003 (Ind. 2014). In conducting our review, we consider only those matters that were designated at the summary judgment stage. Haegert v. McMullan, 953 N.E.2d 1223, 1229 (Ind.Ct.App. 2011).

         [¶6] Summary judgment is appropriate if the designated evidence shows that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Hughley, 15 N.E.3d at 1003; Ind. Trial Rule 56(C). The moving party bears the onerous burden of affirmatively negating an opponent's claim. Hughley, 15 N.E.3d at 1003. Then, the nonmoving party must "come forward with contrary evidence" showing a genuine issue for the trier of fact. Williams v. Tharp, 914 N.E.2d 756, 762 (Ind. 2009).

         [¶7] In determining whether issues of material fact exist, we neither reweigh evidence nor judge witness credibility. Peterson v. Ponda, 893 N.E.2d 1100, 1104 (Ind.Ct.App. 2008), trans. denied (2009). Rather, we must accept as true those facts established by the designated evidence favoring the nonmoving party. Brill v. Regent Commc'ns, Inc., 12 N.E.3d 299, 309 (Ind.Ct.App. 2014), trans. denied. "Any doubt as to any facts or inferences to be drawn therefrom must be resolved ...


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