Piazza v. Kellim

Summarized by:

  • Court: Oregon Court of Appeals
  • Area(s) of Law: Tort Law
  • Date Filed: 06-03-2015
  • Case #: A153286
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Lagesen, P.J. for the Court; Tookey, J.; & Edmonds, S.J., dissenting.
  • Full Text Opinion

Under Oregon tort law, a plaintiff must plead and prove foreseeability of harm from third-party criminal action by showing (1) the defendant’s conduct caused a foreseeable risk; (2) the risk was to an interest of a kind that the law protects against negligent invasion; (3) the defendant’s conduct was unreasonable considering the risk; (4) the conduct caused the plaintiff’s harm; and (5) the plaintiff was within the class of persons and the harm was within the general type of potential injuries that made the defendant’s conduct negligent.

Plaintiff Piazza appealed the trial court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of Defendants Rotary International District and The Zone (Respondents). Piazza brought a negligence claim against Respondents as a personal representative of the family of a 17-year old foreign exchange student (the decedent) who was killed while standing in line in front of the Zone, an underage dance club. The decedent was waiting outside the club to celebrate a birthday party with friends when a schizophrenic man fired upon the line, killing the decedent. Piazza alleged that the Respondents should have foreseen the inherent danger of an outdoors line based on the violent history of the neighboring area and the club itself. The Respondents argued, and the trial court agreed, that such a random criminal intervention by that schizophrenic man can never be foreseen. On appeal, the Court reviewed all evidence in a light favorable to Piazza to determine whether any reasonable juror could conclude that Piazza had alleged a colorable claim. The Court further addressed the standard of “reasonable foreseeability” for harm arising from third-party criminal conduct. The Court determined that a reasonable jury could find that Respondents should have reasonably foreseen the general class of harm alleged by Piazza (injury to young patrons waiting in line outside the club in that neighborhood), and that the harm suffered by the decedent fell within that harm. The trial court’s order of summary judgment was Reversed and Remanded.

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