Appeal from Superior Court of King County. Docket No: 93-2-31248-2. Date filed: 01/25/95. Judge signing: Hon. James W. Bates JR.
Authored by Ann L. Ellington. Concurring: Susan R. Agid, Faye C. Kennedy
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Ellington
ELLINGTON, J. -- Bradley Dobos was assaulted on a public street. His assailants are unidentified, but Dobos contends they patronized an underage drinking party at "The Meeting Place," a Pike Place Market establishment owned by Pamela and Dave Audette. Assuming they did, the trial court nevertheless properly granted summary judgment dismissing Dobos' suit against the Audettes because Dobos had no evidence that his assailants were underage or intoxicated, or that their conduct put Audettes on notice they might commit a crime upon leaving the party. Because Dobos' landlord had no duty to prevent a criminal assault outside its own premises, the trial court also correctly dismissed Dobos' claim against Pike Place. Finally, the trial court also correctly dismissed Dobos' claim against the City for violation of the claim filing ordinance.
Dobos was assaulted on a city street about 50 feet from a common area shared by his apartment and a rental hall called The Meeting Place.
On March 31, 1991, the hall was rented for a private party. By all accounts this party was a disaster. It was attended by approximately 200-300 individuals, most of whom were between 18 and 21 years old. Witnesses reported that alcohol was available and that an older woman terminated the party when the guests started throwing bottles. Some time thereafter, a number of the partygoers panicked and fled.
At about this time, Dobos had gone outside to move his van. He saw a group of males leaving the area of The Meeting Place walking confidently toward him while other people were running. Shortly after passing this group, Dobos was struck from behind. While Dobos did not see what or who struck him, and has no recollection of the assault itself, he believes that members of this group assaulted him because they were taunting him when he regained consciousness. Dobos suffered substantial injuries, including a fractured lower jaw, the loss of at least one tooth, and permanently slurred speech. His assailants were never apprehended or identified.
Dobos brought a negligence action against the Audettes, Pike Place Market Preservation and Development Authority, and the City of Seattle. The City was served with a summons on October 11, 1993. On December 10, 1993, the City demanded filing of the summons and complaint under CR 3. *fn1 Dobos filed the summons and complaint on December 20, 1993, but did not file a claim for damages with the City until January 28, 1994. On February 16, the City answered, claiming that the court lacked jurisdiction because Dobos failed to file a claim for damages 60 days prior to commencing the suit. See SMC 5.24.005. *fn2 On or about March 31, 1994, Dobos moved to file an amended summons and complaint, claiming that doing so would satisfy the 60-day requirement. The City maintained that the court lacked jurisdiction and did not defend Dobos' motion. Dobos was granted leave and filed an amended complaint on April 13, 1994. The City restated its jurisdictional defense in its answer to the amended complaint.
The Audettes and Pike Place sought summary judgment for failure to present a prima facie case. The City sought summary judgment for violation of the claims ordinance. The court granted these motions.
Failure to State a Prima Facie Case
The first issue is whether the court erred in granting summary judgment for the Audettes and Pike Place. Summary judgment is proper when there is no genuine issue of material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law, Hutchins v. 1001 Fourth Ave. Assocs., 116 EWash. 2dF 217, 220, 802 P.2d 1360 (1991), or if reasonable minds could reach but one Conclusion from all the evidence. Christen v. Lee, 113 Wash. 2d 479, 487-91, 780 P.2d 1307 (1989). We review an order on summary judgment de novo. Forest v. State, 62 Wash. App. 363, 366, 814 P.2d 1181 (1991).
A negligence claim requires a breach of duty that proximately causes injury to the plaintiff. Hutchins, 116 Wash. 2d at 220. The existence of a legal duty is a question of law. Hutchins, 116 Wash. 2d at 220. Dobos' precise theories as to the duties owed him are not clear, but his briefing suggests he relies on duties owed by purveyors of alcohol and landlords.
The facts support neither theory.
Generally, a property owner does not have a duty to protect others from the criminal acts of third parties. Hutchins, 116 Wash. 2d at 223, 226. A duty may be imposed, however, where a special relationship exists between the injured party and the property owner or between the criminal and the property owner. ...