Traub Lieberman Attorneys Colleen E. Hastie and Chelsea Four-Rosenbaum Obtain Summary Judgment for Security Company in Negligent Security Action

Plaintiff, a nineteen-year-old college student, was attending a rave type event at the Mid Hudson Civic Center arena. Prior to arriving at the venue, plaintiff consumed several shots of alcohol, and she had an above the limits blood alcohol count when she was admitted to the hospital several hours later. Plaintiff was unable to recall how she was injured, but testified that the last thing she recalled was proceeding to the balcony area of the civic center to take photographs of the stage and possibly climbing onto a set of retracted bleachers before falling approximately thirteen feet to the floor below.  

Ambulance personnel testified that on the night of the alleged incident, they were advised by a police officer that a woman was sick near the bathrooms on the first floor. The EMTs observed a young woman throwing up into a waste can near the bathrooms. Plaintiff advised the EMTs that she was drunk and denied that she was in any pain or had any injuries. Plaintiff was identified and an ambulance report was generated documenting the conversation between plaintiff and the EMTs.

Plaintiff had brought a prior action captioned Grace Rugen v. Mid-Hudson Civic Center and Barstool Blackout Tour, Index No: 1244/2014, in the Supreme Court of the State of New York, Dutchess County (the “Prior Action”).  The Prior Action resulted in summary judgment for defendants when Justice James Pagones held that plaintiff was unable to make a prima facie case of negligence because she could not identify the cause of the alleged incident.

In the present case, Traub Lieberman Straus & Shrewsberry LLP (“TLSS”) partner Colleen E. Hastie and associate Chelsea Four-Rosenbaum moved for summary judgment on defendant’s behalf, arguing that: (i) plaintiff’s claim against the defendant is collaterally estopped given the court’s determination in the Prior Action that plaintiff is unable to establish the cause of the alleged incident; and (ii) the Insured, a third-party contractor, owes no duty of care to plaintiff. Plaintiff opposed defendants’ motion on the ground that the complaint in the second action is based on negligent security while the Prior Action was based on negligent maintenance of the premises.

Justice Pagones granted TLSS’ motion, dismissing the complaint based on the identical issue he decided in the Prior Action, i.e., plaintiff’s inability to identify the cause of her fall, which could lead to impermissible jury speculation. Justice Pagones held that plaintiff’s failure to identify the cause of her fall is fatal to her case regardless of whether the action is based on negligent security or negligent maintenance of the premises.

Grace Rugen v. Mid-Hudson Protective Services, LLC, New York State Supreme Court, County of Dutchess, Index No.: 1244/2014.