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Odds and Ends in the Civil Arena

If you've got a case involving landowner liability for intentional third-party torts -- which is lawyer-speak for Aunt Rosie getting knocked down and her purse stolen while she's shopping at the local mall -- you'll want to take a look at the 8th District's recent decision in Sabat v. Garfield Mall.  That's pretty much what happened:  the plaintiff, an elderly woman, was found unconscious behind her car, and when she died sixteen months later, her husband filed a claim for wrongful death against the mall.  The trial court granted summary judgment, concluding that it wasn't clear whether any intentional act had even occurred; there was some evidence that the woman had merely blacked out.  The 8th District did find that this was a genuine issue of fact, but affirmed the judgment anyway, deciding that any attack wasn't foreseeable, and thus the mall wasn't liable.  The decision, by Judge Cooney, has a fairly comprehensive discussion of the law on the subject, including the provision of the wrongful death statute that holding a landowner liable for intentional third-party torts requires proof of "gross negligence."

Speaking of intentional torts, there was a decision a few months back by the Supreme Court on liability of the employer for the employee's torts.  The plaintiff had gone into a bank to get a loan to buy a business, got turned down for the loan and, to add insult to injury, the bank officer who'd taken the application used the information to buy the business for himself.  The court of appeals upheld the judgment against the bank, finding that the bank was liable because it put the officer in the position where he could commit the tort, but the Supreme Court reversed, holding that employer could not be held liable for the employee's intentional tort under respondeat superior unless it could be shown that the employer benefited from it.  This is a fairly important development in the law, and goes against the position of the Restatement of Torts.

Speaking of employees -- and notice the clever segues here -- the 8th District also came out with another decision on arbitration clauses, this time affirming the validity of one in an employment contract.  I've done more than half a dozen posts on arbitration clauses, because I think it's clear that this is a rapidly-developing area of law as more companies try to avoid the uncertainties of the jury system.  (You can find the previous posts by putting "arbitration" into the search field to the upper right and hitting "Find.")  At this point, it seems that there's a clear trend developing, at least in the 8th District, of subjecting such provisions to very strict scrutiny in consumer transactions -- especially ones for major purchases, such as a car -- while using a much more relaxed standard in other contexts, such as employer-employee agreements.

Speaking of segues, yours truly was once a disc jockey.  For about eight weeks.  At a campus radio station.  Actually, it was a campus residence hall radio station, which played only in the dining hall, and through the electrical outlets in the dorm rooms.  (I am not making this up.  WTAM boasts of being a 50,000 watt station.  I think we were maybe 15 or 25 watt.)  I wasn't particularly good.  That's not true; I wasn't at all good.  My scheduled slot was from 1 to 3 on Sunday morning.  I'd amuse myself by playing songs I liked that nobody else did, and running contests, like "first caller wins $25,000 and a date with Stevie Nicks!"  No one ever called.

You know the phrase, "you've got a good face for radio"?  Apparently, I've got a good voice for blogging.


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