Earlier this month, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a Maine wrongful death case discussing whether a business owner can be held liable for the intentional, violent acts of a third party, and if so, under what circumstances. Ultimately, the court concluded that the plaintiff’s case was properly dismissed by the lower court because the plaintiff failed to show that the assault was foreseeable.
The Facts of the Case
According to the court’s opinion, a woman was shopping at the defendant supermarket when another female customer approached the woman and attacked her with a knife. The woman died as a result of the attack, and her husband subsequently filed a Maine wrongful death claim against the supermarket, claiming that it was negligent in protecting his wife from the assault.
Evidently, the woman who stabbed the plaintiff’s wife was known in the community, as well as by store management. In fact, there had been several reports that the woman was acting menacingly in front of the store; however, there had been no reports that she ever threatened a customer. And no store employee ever saw her with a weapon. However, customers would occasionally complain that the woman’s physical presence alone was intimidating (apparently, she wore very baggy clothes and had a shaved head). At one point, the woman was banned from the store.
The grocery store argued that it should not be held liable because the woman’s attack of the plaintiff’s wife was not foreseeable. The court agreed, finding that the grocery store did not owe the plaintiff’s wife a duty of care in this particular situation.
The court explained that, under Maine law, for a business to be liable for an assault carried out by a third party, the business “must have reason to anticipate the assault.” The court went to note that businesses must protect customers against known hazards as well as those that it should reasonably anticipate.
The court held that, despite the various issues that the store had with the woman, it was not foreseeable that she would attack another customer with a weapon. The court reviewed in detail all the reports from employees and customers regarding the woman, noting that none of them evidenced an intent to be violent. Thus, while the grocery store may have known the woman to be a menace, the store had no reason to believe she would be violent.
Have You Been Injured While at a Maine Business?
If you or a loved one has recently been injured while on the property of another person or business, you may be entitled to monetary compensation through a Maine premises liability lawsuit. At the injury law firm of Peter Thompson & Associates, we proudly represent injury victims across Maine in all types of claims, including slip and fall accidents, car crashes, and incidents of medical malpractice. To learn more, and to schedule a free consultation with an attorney today, call 1-800-804-2004 today. Calling is free, and we will not bill you for our services unless we can help you recover for your injuries.