United States District Court, S.D. Mississippi, Eastern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
KEITH STARRETT, District Judge.
For the reasons stated below, the Court denies Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment .
This is a premises liability case arising from a bar fight at Logan's Roadhouse in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. Plaintiff, a customer of Logan's, was injured by another customer, and he contends that Logan's breached its duty to exercise reasonable care and protect him from a foreseeable injury at the hands of another patron.
Plaintiff's sister, Selena Green, and his girlfriend, Rhonda Browne, went to Logan's to get dinner and wait for Plaintiff to get off from work. They were seated in the bar area, along with one other group of people - the group including the assailant, Phillip Prater. The facts surrounding these events are disputed, but it is clear that Prater left his wallet on a table while he went outside, and the money that was inside it ended up in Green's possession. Logan's staff called the police. An officer responded, took the money from Green, and returned it to Prater. Prater declined to press charges, and the officer left.
Plaintiff arrived and joined his sister and girlfriend. Again, the facts are disputed, but there was a verbal exchange between Plaintiff's table and Prater's table. The volume and tone of that exchange is disputed, as are the specific words that were exchanged. Regardless, Plaintiff and Prater ended up fighting, and Prater put Plaintiff in a choke hold. The same police officer that had responded to the first call returned to the restaurant and broke up the fight.
Plaintiff was injured, and he subsequently filed this lawsuit against Logan's, alleging that it breached its duty to exercise reasonable care and protect him from a foreseeable injury at the hands of another customer. Defendant filed a Motion for Summary Judgment , which is ripe for review.
II. STANDARD OF REVIEW
Rule 56 provides that "[t]he court shall grant summary judgment if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." FED. R. CIV. P. 56(a); see also Sierra Club, Inc. v. Sandy Creek Energy Assocs., L.P., 627 F.3d 134, 138 (5th Cir. 2010). "An issue is material if its resolution could affect the outcome of the action." Sierra Club, Inc., 627 F.3d at 138. "An issue is genuine' if the evidence is sufficient for a reasonable jury to return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Cuadra v. Houston Indep. Sch. Dist., 626 F.3d 808, 812 (5th Cir. 2010).
The Court is not permitted to make credibility determinations or weigh the evidence. Deville v. Marcantel, 567 F.3d 156, 164 (5th Cir. 2009). When deciding whether a genuine fact issue exists, "the court must view the facts and the inference to be drawn therefrom in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party." Sierra Club, Inc., 627 F.3d at 138. However, "[c]onclusional allegations and denials, speculation, improbable inferences, unsubstantiated assertions, and legalistic argumentation do not adequately substitute for specific facts showing a genuine issue for trial." Oliver v. Scott, 276 F.3d 736, 744 (5th Cir. 2002).
To prevail, Plaintiff must demonstrate the basic elements of a negligence claim: "(1) a duty owed by the defendant to the plaintiff; (2) a breach of that duty; (3) damages; and (4) a causal connection between the breach and the damages, such that the breach is the proximate cause of the damages." Double Quick, Inc. v. Lymas, 50 So.3d 292, 298 (Miss. 2011); see also Lyle v. Mladinich, 584 So.2d 397, 398-99 (Miss. 1991). Defendant argues that Plaintiff can not establish three of the elements of his premises liability claim: duty, breach, and causation. It also argues that Plaintiff has insufficient evidence to support a claim for punitive damages.
A. Duty - Foreseeability
The parties agree that Plaintiff was a business invitee. "[A] proprietor (or owner or operator) of a business owes a business patron or invitee the duty to maintain the premises in a reasonably safe or secure condition." Lyle, 584 So.2d at 399. This duty encompasses "negligent or wrongful attacks on the invitee by other patrons." Id. "Although not an insurer of an invitee's safety, a premises owner owes a duty to exercise reasonable care to protect the invitee from reasonably foreseeable injuries at the hands of another." Lymas, 50 So.3d at 298 (quoting Simpson v. Boyd, 880 So.2d 1047, 1051 (Miss. 2004)); see also Lyle, 584 So.2d at 399; ...