COA upholds summary judgment for bar

A northern Indiana man injured by robbers outside of a bar is not entitled to damages from the bar, the Indiana Court of Appeals wrote Wednesday, drawing on Indiana Supreme Court precedent to determine the man’s injuries were not foreseeable and the bar did not owe him a duty.

In July 20112, DaShawn Powell was leaving Bleachers Pub in Mishawka at around 2 a.m. when he was struck from behind and robbed of his wallet and the keys to his vehicle. A few minutes later when Powell was sitting in his car, one of his two assailants opened the door, prompting Powell to begin a foot pursuit after them.

The chase ended with one of the assailants driving over Powell with another vehicle, causing serious injuries, including a ruptured bladder. Though he had not reported the incident at the time of the robbery, Powell filed a complaint against the pub in March 2014, alleging negligence and seeking damages.

A dispositive motion deadline was set for Aug. 4, 2015, but after the Indiana Supreme Court handed down its decision in Goodwin v. Yeakle’s Sports Bar and Grill, Inc., 62 N.E.3d 384 (Ind. 2016) in October 2016, the St. Joseph Superior Court reopened the dispositive motion deadline. The Goodwin decision examined foreseeability in the context of duty as a matter of law and held that “a shooting inside a neighborhood bar is not foreseeable as a matter of law.”

Bleachers then filed a motion for summary judgment in December 2016, which the trial court granted after finding, under Goodwin, that an unprovoked criminal assault like the one that occurred here is not a foreseeable criminal attack. The Indiana Court of Appeals upheld that decision on Wednesday, with Judge John Baker writing that Goodwin had a “substantial and substantive effect” on the instant case, and there was no looming trial date set when the Goodwin decision came down. Thus, Powell was not prejudiced by the trial court’s decision to reopen the dispositive motions deadline.

The appellate court also upheld the grant of summary judgment to Bleachers, agreeing with the trial court that the harm inflicted on Powell was not foreseeable.

“In other words, the likelihood of this type of harm is not significant enough to reduce a reasonable person to take precautions to avoid it,” Baker wrote. “Under these circumstances, we find that the trial court did not err by concluding as a matter of law that Bleachers does not owe a duty to Powell to prevent this type of harm or by granting summary judgment in favor of Bleachers.”

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