Property manager not liable in drunken driving crash, COA holds

The Indiana Court of Appeals ruled the property management company of a Camby bar has no duty of care to a woman who was seriously injured in a car accident in which she and the driver were intoxicated.

Kaitlyn Schneider and Benjamin Burns went to Bubbaz Bar and Grill and both consumed alcoholic beverages. They left about 2 a.m. with Burns driving. Burns lost control of the car and ran into a ditch, seriously injuring Schneider. She’s now a paraplegic. Burns had a blood alcohol reading of 0.10 at the time of the crash.

Two years after the accident, Schneider filed her second amended complaint against Bubbaz, as well as the bar’s property management company Paragon Realty LLC and owners Heartland Landing II LLC. She claimed employees of Paragon and Heartland furnished alcoholic beverages to her and Burns knowing they were visible intoxicated, resulting in the crash.

Two years later, Paragon moved for summary judgment, saying it owed no duty of care to Schneider as a matter of law and the trial court agreed, granting Paragon summary judgment. Schneider appealed.

Paragon noted the obligations it has as property manager, which include collecting fees and rent, maintain the property in good condition and effectuating repairs, managing capital improvements and other responsibilities relevant to maintaining the business side of the property.

Judge Edward Najam wrote for the panel that Paragon was a limited agent of Heartland and its duty was contained to maintaining the physical integrity of the common areas.

“For example, had Schneider tripped over uneven payment in the parking lot and sustained injuries, Paragon might have been held liable,” Najam wrote. “Contrary to Schneider’s assertion on appeal, there is no designated evidence showing that Paragon had a duty or had assumed a duty to ‘police’ the parking lot or any obligation to invitees beyond the physical maintenance of the property.”

The case is Kaitlyn Schneider v. Paragon Realty LLC, 32A01-1511-CT-1858.

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