Bar Has No ‘Special Relationship’ Duty to Patrons to Report Brawl to Police—C.A.
Opinion Comes in Case in Which Man Was Slain Near Tavern an Hour After Altercation Occurred There
By a MetNews Staff Writer
The “special relationship” that owners of a bar have with their patrons does not create a duty to telephone the police whenever an altercation takes place despite the prospect that the combatants, after being ejected from the premises, might later engage in a further confrontation close by, Div. Three of the Fourth District Court of Appeal has held in a wrongful death case.
Thursday’s unpublished opinion by Justice Maurice Sanchez affirms a summary judgment granted by Orange Superior Court Judge James L. Crandall in favor of the owners and operators of the District Lounge in the City of Orange.
In the early morning hours of July 29, 2018, Nicholas Glynn, 25, and a friend, got into a brawl with three men at the Chapman Avenue tavern and, about an hour after they were all escorted out, the two groups encountered each other a block from the bar, and violence ensued. Glynn was fatally stabbed.
Daniel Almazan, the person charged with having committed the killing while his co-conspirators beat Glynn’s companion, is a fugitive.
Glynn’s parents, Tina and David Glynn, sued Orange Circle Lounge, Inc., Lounge Group, Inc., and Mario Marovic on the theory that if police had been summoned, the death of their son might have been averted.
“[F]or plaintiffs to prevail, we must find a duty arising from the bar/patron special relationship beyond those identified in previous cases,” Sanchez wrote, finding no basis for doing so.
He weighed the various factors for assessing the extent of the duty created by a special relationship, as set forth in the California Supreme Court’s 1968 opinion in Rowland v. Christian, and said:
“We conclude the balance of these factors weighs against imposing a duty under these circumstances. The foreseeable nature of Nicholas’s death, the certainty he suffered an injury, the minimal prevention of future harm, and the existence of insurance are not sufficient to outweigh the tenuous nature of the connection between defendants’ conduct and Nicholas’s death, the absence of moral blame attaching to defendants’ conduct, and the substantial burden that imposition of a duty would impose on not only defendants but the community at large through greatly expanded utilization of law enforcement resources.”
Closeness of Connection
Addressing the closeness of the connection between the defendants’ conduct and the injury, Sanchez said:
“Defendants’ conduct is quite significantly removed from Nicholas’s death by physical distance, time, and the tenuous logic of the causal connection plaintiffs draw between defendants’ conduct and Nicholas’s death. Plaintiffs argue defendants should have called the police, but it is not at all clear that this would have made any difference in the ultimate outcome.”
As to moral blameworthiness, the justice wrote:
“Plaintiffs point out that defendants failed to comply with their safety plan, which specified that police should be called under these circumstances. However, we do not ordinarily define either moral blame or a legal duty by reference to defendants’ own internal policy. The lack of a call to 911 when the parties had been separated and had peaceably gone their separate ways is not the sort of conduct to which moral blame ordinarily attaches. One wonders what plaintiffs would have expected defendants to report to the police dispatcher in this instance.”
In assessing the burden that imposition of the duty would entail, he set forth:
“If every bar is required to call the police for every altercation taking place on their premises, on pain of liability attaching for subsequent fights happening much later, away from the premises they own or control, police resources would be stretched thin and the ability of the police to respond to other calls would suffer. Many, perhaps even most, of these calls will be unnecessary. By the time the police arrive, most of these situations will have been calmed by bar security, with the parties either eager to leave or having already left.”
“In the absence of ongoing or imminent criminal conduct, we cannot find defendants owed a duty to Nicholas to protect him from the assailants during the final altercation. Once Nicholas, [his companion], and the assailants left defendants’ bar peaceably and in separate directions, the bar’s duty ended.”
The case is Glynn v. Orange Circle Lounge, G061255.
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