COA: Attack on wrestling event attendee was unforeseeable

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A woman who was injured in an attack while walking from a Bartholomew County wrestling event to her car cannot succeed on her negligence claim against the wrestling company because the attack was not foreseeable, so the company did not owe a duty to her, the Indiana Court of Appeals has ruled.

In Crystal Jones v. Jerry Wilson d/b/a Hoosier Pro Wrestling, 03A04-1701-PL-233, Jerry Wilson and his company, Hoosier Pro Wrestling, entered into a contract with Bartholomew County 4-H Fair Inc., which allowed him to rent the Family Arts building at the Bartholomew County fairgrounds for a wrestling event on June 7, 2014. Crystal Jones attended the wrestling event, but left the building around 11 p.m., before the show was over, to retrieve medicine from her car.

Though she used the flashlight on her phone to light the path back to her vehicle, Jones was attacked by an unknown assailant and sustained injuries. She filed a complaint against Wilson and Bartholomew County 4-H Fair Inc., alleging negligence due to a lack of security personnel and lighting.

Jones also alleged that 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.” Wilson breached that duty through the lack of lighting and security, and the presence of alcohol, Jones said.

Wilson moved for summary judgment, arguing he had no duty to Jones while she was in the parking lot to protect her from the unforeseeable acts of a third party. He also argued his agreement with the fair did not obligate him to provide security or lighting.

The Bartholomew Circuit Court granted summary judgment in favor of Jones, and the Indiana Court of Appeals affirmed Tuesday. Drawing on the recent opinions in the cases of Rogers v. Martin, 63 N.E.3d 316, 320 (Ind. 2016) and Goodwin v. Yeakle’s Sports Bar & Grill, Inc., 62 N.E. 3d 384, 386 (Ind. 2016), Judge James Kirsch wrote the attack on Jones was not foreseeable in the context of duty.

“Jones’ injuries resulted from the conduct of a third person, and we find that the foreseeability test outlined in Goodwin and Rogers must be applied to see if a duty exists at all,” Kirsch wrote. “Under that test – examining (1) the broad type of plaintiff and (2) the broad type of harm, without consideration of the actual facts, – we find that the harm inflicted on Jones was not normally to be expected, and thus not foreseeable, and Wilson did not owe a duty to Jones.”

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