Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Doris Mitchell v. WSG Bay Hills IV, LLC (Maryland U.S.D.C.)

Filed December 11, 2013
Opinion by Judge Richard D. Bennett

Holding: A business operator does not have implied duty to protect the public from lawful actions of third parties partaking in the business’ activities.

Facts: Plaintiff was struck in the leg by a golf ball while living in a condominium adjacent to a golf course owned by the Defendant. Prior to this incident, occupants of the condominium complained to the Defendant after errant shots damaged the building. The Defendant elected not to alter the course because of costs. The Defendant moved for summary judgment arguing  it did not have a duty to protect the condominium residents.

Analysis: A business is not required to control the actions of third-parties lawfully partaking in business, unless a “special relationship” exists between the business and the injured party. In most instances a special relationship is created by either statute or contract. However, the Court acknowledged that a special relationship may be implied by either “(1) the inherent nature of the relationship between the parties; or (2) by one party undertaking to protect or assist the other party, and thus often inducing reliance upon the conduct of the acting party.” The Defendant did not have a direct relationship with the Plaintiff and the Defendants never offered to protect the condominium residents.

The Court granted the motion for summary judgment.
The full opinion is available in PDF.

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