Tuesday, October 14, 2003
Religious Group Could Not Have Foreseen Shooting
Of Child by White Supremacist, Court Rules
By a MetNews Staff Writer
A Jewish organization could not have reasonably foreseen that a white supremacist would shoot a child on its premises, and cannot be held liable for the child’s injuries, the Court of Appeal for this district ruled Friday.
Div. One affirmed an order dismissing a suit against the Jewish Community Centers of Greater Los Angeles, resulting from the 1999 attack by Buford Furrow on the North Valley Jewish Community Center in Granada Hills, where 5-year-old Benjamin Kadish was attending summer camp.
The panel agreed with Los Angeles Superior Court Judge William A. MacLaughlin, who sustained a demurrer, that vague threats of violence, communicated in anonymous telephone calls, did not place the JCCGLA on notice of the need to take heightened security measures at its facilities.
“We conclude that these vague threats were not sufficiently specific so as to require that security measures be adopted to prevent a maniac from shooting children at a summer camp,” Justice Robert Mallano wrote for court.
“Plaintiffs did not allege any specifics about the threats—who, what, when, where, or how. Anonymous threats of such a vague nature do not provide an organization with guidance about what, when, and where precautions, if any, should be taken, nor against whom.”
Eleanor and Charles Kadish filed their lawsuit after Benjamin was shot by Furrow. The suit included a claim on behalf of Benjamin’s 9-year-old brother, Joshua, who was not shot but was present during the attacks.
Furrow, who expressed a hatred of Jews and non-whites and associated with racist groups, pled guilty to 16 federal charges, including the killing of Joseph Ileto, a Filipino American who worked for the U.S. Postal Service, and the wounding of Benjamin Kadish and four others at the Jewish center.
He admitted that the shooting of Ileto and the JCC shootings that preceded it were racially motivated. The North Valley JCC was targeted, he said, because it appeared to have taken fewer security measures than its counterparts in other parts of town.
Furrow was sentenced to life imprisonment with no possibility of parole.
Mallano, writing for the Court of Appeal, said there was no duty on the part of the JCC to take greater security measures.
He cited Rowland v. Christian (1968) 69 Cal.2d 108, which elucidated the factors that must be looked at to determine the scope of a landowner’s responsibility for the safety of visitors to its premises—foreseeability, degree of certainty of injury, closeness of causal connection between injury and breach of alleged duty, moral blame, the extent to which imposition of duty would prevent future harm, burden on the landowner and the community, and the cost and availability of insurance.
Those factors weigh heavily against a finding of duty in this case, Mallano wrote.
There had been no prior incidents of violence against children at the North Valley center, he noted, adding that the vague threats at the heart of the plaintiffs’ case were not specific enough to place the defendant on notice of any particular risk to the children at the camp.
The complaint, he explained, alleged that in the weeks preceding the shootings, the North Valley JCC received anonymous calls threatening violence against its members. There was also an allegation that other Jewish organizations had warned the staff of the North Valley facility years earlier about the need to take security measures based on general threats against the Jewish community.
The alleged threats to injure JCC members, however, “did not convey the kind or degree of the crime actually committed—a gunman’s attempted murder of children attending Camp Valley Chai,” the justice wrote.
Mallano also concluded that the plaintiffs did not sufficiently explain what security measures would have prevented the shootings, and that the community center could not be held morally blameworthy for “the act of a deranged gunman” in a nation where thousands of hate crimes occur each year.
“An organization composed of individuals who belong to a ‘protected’ group under hate crime statutes or a business that caters to such a group should not be unfairly burdened to protect those individuals from the criminal acts of third persons,” the justice wrote.
The case is Kadish v. Jewish Community Centers of Los Angeles, 03 S.O.S. 5345.
Copyright 2003, Metropolitan News Company