Law School Case Brief
Beckwith v. Interstate Mgmt. Co., LLC - 82 F. Supp. 3d 255 (D.D.C. 2015)
In the District of Columbia, a "sliding scale" analysis determines the existence of a duty to protect a plaintiff from intervening third-party criminal acts: The two ends of the scale are (i) the criminal act's foreseeability and (ii) the degree to which the defendant owes a "greater duty of protection" by nature of his relationship to the plaintiff. In the absence of a protective relationship, the plaintiff must make a "heightened showing" of the criminal act's foreseeability to establish a duty. Conversely, a relationship "entailing a greater duty of protection" lightens the plaintiff's burden to show foreseeability.
At the restroom in the lower level of the hotel lobby, Connor Beckwith ("Beckwith") was assaulted by a man who was found to have dined in the hotel restaurant. At the time of the assault, the hotel had numerous security cameras in place; however, the restroom door was slightly off camera. Beckwith subsequently filed a one-count complaint against the hotel management company, alleging that its negligence in maintaining security at the hotel and in responding to the assault caused him physical and emotional injuries. The management company moved for summary judgment on the basis that Beckwith’s evidence is insufficient to establish the duty, breach of a standard of care, or proximate causation required to sustain a negligence claim.
Taking into consideration the circumstances of the case at hand, could Beckwith’s negligence claim be sustained?
The court held that Beckwith’s negligence claim could not be sustained. According to the court, under the District of Columbia law, where the plaintiff alleges that the defendant negligently failed to prevent a third party's injurious criminal act, he must prove that the criminal act was so foreseeable that it became the defendant's duty to guard against it by adhering to a recognized standard of care, that the defendant breached that standard of care, and that the failure to exercise due care proximately caused the injury. In the case at bar, the court held that Beckwith did not proffer sufficient evidence to consider the assault as foreseeable. Assuming arguendo that the assault was foreseeable, the court held that Beckwith’s evidence did not establish the requisite standard of care as it shed no light on the substantive content of any standard of care.
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