In Dicta

Saturday, July 02, 2005

Judicial Outrage

The San Diego Union-Tribune has the following story:

"The state Supreme Court ruled yesterday that employees of a Nestor taco shop had a legal obligation to call 911 while a customer was being brutally attacked by gang members outside the shop.

The decision came in a lawsuit brought by Charles Morris IV against the owners of Victoria's Taco Shop in the south San Diego neighborhood. Morris was attacked, stabbed and had his throat slashed during a harrowing, eight-minute long assault by a Nestor gang member around 1 a.m. Aug. 1, 2000.

During the attack, three employees of the shop watched through a large window that looked out on the parking lot. The assailant – a documented gang member named Richard Cuevas – rushed into the kitchen and grabbed a butcher knife to stab Morris. (...)

The court concluded that there was a "special relationship" – a legal term which confers certain responsibilities on a business owner – between Morris and the shop owner at the time of the attack.

While Morris did not buy food or enter the shop, two companions he was with did, George wrote. Moreover, previous cases have held that a business has a special legal relationship not only with paying customers but also "invitees," or potential customers.

Therefore, George wrote, "we find that as a general matter a proprietor's special-relationship-based duty to its patrons or invitees includes an obligation to make such a call, or to take other minimal measures." (...)"

So now a person who does not even enter a store has a "special relationship" with the storeowner? What about the doctrine of no duty to rescue? What about judicial reason? The California Supreme Court is really going out on a limb here. I'll be reading the actual Supreme Court decision, so I hope to make a later post on the matter.

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