South-Western Legal Studies in Business

Accidental Injury Inflicted by One Patron on Other Patron Not Fault of Opera Company
Description

New York high court held that the Metropolitan Opera was not negligent when a patron with health problems fell when going to his seat, causing injury to another patron.

Topic Torts
Key Words

Negligence; Injury; Disabled Patron; Duty of Care; Reasonable Expectations

C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts

Gilson attended a performance at the Metropolitan Opera. She sat in an aisle seat down the row from Taitt, who suffers from Parkinson's disease and walks unsteadily. After the intermission, Taitt returned to his seat late after the house lights had been dimmed. Gilson stood up, and moved into the aisle to allow Taitt to enter the row of seats. Taitt lost his balance, fell into Gilson, who fell down four steps and hit a railing. She sued the Met, alleging that her injuries were caused by its negligence in the management, operation, supervision, and control of its premises. The Met moved for summary judgment, but that was denied by the trial judge. The Met appealed; the appeals court reversed, holding that the Met did not breach any recognized duty owed to Gilson. She appealed.

Decision

Affirmed. In any negligence action, the threshold issue before the court is whether the defendant owed a legally recognized duty to the plaintiff. To make that determination, the court balances factors, including the reasonable expectations of parties and society generally, the proliferation of claims, the likelihood of unlimited or insurer-like liability, disproportionate risk and reparation allocation, and public policies affecting the expansion or limitation of new channels of liability. The Met had no duty to stop a disabled patron from trying to take his seat without an escort, or to provide such escort, and therefore it was not liable in negligence for Gilson's injuries.

Citation

Gilson v. Metropolitan Opera,, ---N.W2d--- (2005 WL 3108197, Ct. App., NY, 2005)

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