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Erickson v. Curtis Inv. Co. - 447 N.W.2d 165 (Minn. 1989)

Rule:

Whether a duty is imposed depends, therefore, on the relationship of the parties and the foreseeable risk involved. Ultimately, the question is one of policy.

Facts:

Plaintiff-respondent Garnet Erickson was sexually assaulted and raped in a parking garage in downtown Minneapolis late one winter afternoon as she was preparing to drive her car out of the garage. The garage was owned by defendant Curtis Investment Company. Curtis, in turn, had leased the garage (reserving space for its own use) to defendant Allright Parking Minnesota, Inc., a Minnesota corporation, which was a wholly owned subsidiary of defendant Allright Auto Parks, Inc., a foreign corporation. Plaintiff Erickson and her husband sued Curtis and the two Allright corporations, plus defendant Leadens Investigation and Security, Inc., a security firm that had been hired by Curtis to provide certain security services. After discovery, the four defendants successfully moved for summary judgment. Plaintiffs appealed to the court of appeals. The appeals panel reversed the trial court, holding that Curtis and Allright Parking owed plaintiff a duty to provide her with reasonably safe parking. Defendants appealed.

Issue:

Did the operator of a commercial parking garage owe a duty to its customer to protect her from a trespassing rapist?

Answer:

Yes.

Conclusion:

The Court held that the operator of a parking facility has a duty to use reasonable care to deter criminal activity on its premises that may cause personal harm to customers. The care to be provided was that care which a reasonably prudent operator or owner would provide under like circumstances. Among the circumstances to be considered were the location and construction of the ramp, the practical feasibility and cost of various security measures, and the risk of personal harm to customers that the owner or operator knows, or in the exercise of due care should know, presents a reasonable likelihood of happening. In this case, the Court held that Curtis and Allright Parking owed the victim a duty to provide her with reasonably safe parking.

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