Appellate judges reinstate claim against bar that did not respond to assaultive patrons
Martez Tillman sued The Perfect Pitcher Sports Pub after he was shot by a drunken customer. Tillman had been hired to perform at the club. Throughout the night, apparent gang members became increasingly intoxicated, brandished weapons and assaulted or threatened customers. The bar staff were made aware of separate incidents at 11:50 and 1:15, including escalating threats to Tillman's cousin who accompanied him to the bar. The bar took no action, however, until after Tillman was wounded by a stray bullet, apparently aimed at the cousin.The trial judge refused to allow Tillman to amend his complaint to add a count of illegally furnishing alcohol to an already intoxicated person and summarily dismissed his premises liability claim. On appeal the Court of Appeals' majority upheld the judge's refusal of an amendment but concluded that the safe premises claim should go to the jury for decision since reasonable minds could differ as to the reasonableness of the bar's response to the earlier incidents.
Amendment was denied because Tillman did not prove that he used "due diligence" in attempting to identify the drunken shooter (who must be included as a defendant in a dramshop case against a bar). Incredibly, the insurance-oriented activist Kirsten F. Kelly dissented from the Court of Appeals' opinion. She argued that each separate drunken, hand-gun wielding assault by the gang members constituted a new event and that the bar's tardiness in calling police could not be negligence under new rules propounded by Michigan's insurance-oriented Supreme Court majority.
A few years ago, the insurance-friendly Supreme Court majority overturned existing law and held that commercial property owners and businesses are virtually immune from criminal behavior occurring on the premises: they ruled that the only duty owed by a business to a patron is to call police when an event occurs.