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Don’t eat lead pizza

If a guy punches you in the nose, are you entitled to shoot him with a .357 caliber pistol?Is Shakey’s Pizza responsible if one customer shoots another after a fight in the restaurant? What if the pizza is really bad? Sorry, bad joke.LET’S EAT OUTAlvarez went with a group of friends to eat at Shakey’s Pizza on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood. At a nearby table sat Ajanel with his intoxicated friends. They made obscene remarks to the women in Alvarez’s group. Alvarez confronted Ajanel and asked why they were “disrespecting” the women.Ultimately, Alvarez and Ajanel got in a fight. Ajanel got popped in the nose after stating “Your bitches are not worth fighting for,” and left, adding: “We’ll see you later.” According to one witness he said, “I’ll be back,” and with that, the Ajanel group left.The cops, called by Shakey’s, showed up, assessed the by-then calm situation and left – for the donut shop. Another bad joke. A restaurant employee assured everyone “there is no problem,” and the Alvarez group started to eat.Ajanel then returned to the restaurant with his friends, walked within 5 feet of the Alvarez table, said, “I told you I was going to come back,” and shot Alvarez in the chest. Ajanel escaped but was eventually apprehended and convicted of murder. So much for pride.WRONGFUL DEATHAlvarez’s daughter, mother and girlfriend sued Shakey’s, claiming it was responsible. The trial judge threw out the case, which was appealed by Alvarez’s family.PRIOR INCIDENTSThe family offered into evidence that there were three telling incidents prior to the cold-blooded murder. One, a homeless woman pulled a gun on an employee, then walked away. In another, a customer tried to take food without paying and was apprehended by the restaurant employees. And the third, a robber with a gun took the money in the cash register. All three occurred to the same employee, who transferred to another Shakey’s. I can see why.PRECEDENTThe court discussed leading California cases of premises liability. In one, a woman was raped in a store located in a shopping center. And, in a couple of other cases, women were attacked, one in a parking lot at night and the other in an underground parking garage. In each case, the owner of the property was found not responsibleDECISIONAs in the other cases, the Court of Appeal concluded that Shakey’s had no duty to do anything other than call the police, because the murder was unforeseeable. There was no threat of imminent violence, and the prior incidents were dissimilar to a murder.The dissenting justice opined against Shakey’s because its employee did not tell the police that Ajanel said he “would be coming back.” The right result, albeit still a tragedy for the Alvarez family.

Jim Porter is an attorney with Porter & Simon, with offices in Truckee, South Lake Tahoe and Reno. He is a mediator and was the Governor’s appointee to the Bipartisan McPherson Commission and the California Fair Political Practices Commission. He may be reached at porter@portersimon.com or at the firm’s web site http://www.portersimon.com (c) 2002


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