Thank You For Submiting Feedback!
Under Indiana premises liability law, the duty a landowner owes to an invitee is well established: a landowner must exercise reasonable care for the invitee's protection while the invitee is on the premises. A court looks to foreseeability as the critical inquiry in deciding whether the landowner-invitee "duty to protect" extends to a particular scenario.
Angela Martin and Brian Brothers co-hosted a house party. Brothers and two guests—Jerry Chambers and Paul Michalik—got into a fistfight. Afterwards, Martin found Jerry Chambers bleeding from his face and Paul Michalik lying motionless on her basement floor. Michalik died shortly thereafter. Chambers's bankruptcy trustee and Michalik's estate sued Martin, claiming, in part, that she negligently caused Michalik's injuries and that she furnished alcohol in violation of Indiana's Dram Shop Act. Martin filed a motion for summary judgment, which the trial court granted.
Under the circumstances, could Martin be held liable under two distinct theories: (i) premises liability; and (ii) Dram Shop Act liability?
Yes, with respect to premises liability. No, with respect to Dram Shop Act liability.
Applying principles of premises liability law, the court held that summary judgment was improper on the negligence claim. As a landowner, Martin owed her invitee Michalik a duty to exercise reasonable care for his protection while he was on her premises. According to the court, although Martin had no duty to protect Michalik from the unforeseeable fistfight, she did have a duty to protect him from the foreseeable exacerbation of an injury occurring in her home. The court, however, held that summary judgment was proper on the Dram Shop Act claim because the plain meaning of "furnish" within the Act required that she have transferred possession of the alcohol to Brothers, which she could not do, as they jointly possessed the beer in question.