Bar Patron Stands on Couch, Sings and Falls Thru Window

Were Operator/Owner Liable for Injury to Karaoke Diva?

Julia Kitziger was singing and moving her body while standing on a couch or banquet at Planet Rose’s karaoke bar when the couch moved forward. She then fell backwards, falling through the floor-to-ceiling glass in the storefront window. Litigation ensued against the bar and the owner of the building. Planet Rose and the property owner moved for summary judgment dismissing Kitziger’s complaint. Supreme Court denied the motion. Planet Rose appealed.

The appellate court found that Planet Rose failed to eliminate material issues of fact as to whether the bar had notice of the window’s dangerous condition, and whether the premises was maintained in a reasonably safe condition.  Planet Rose demonstrated that the window, which did not have tempered or safety glass, complied with applicable building code provisions when it was installed. But, even if the premises complied with applicable building code provisions, a landowner had a common-law duty to maintain the premises in reasonably safe condition in view of all the circumstances. Here, the owner of Planet Rose acknowledged that when vandals smashed another window in the storefront years earlier, the glazier recommended tempered glass as the best option for a storefront, and she accepted that recommendation. She also testified that there were many times over the years that patrons stood on the couch, as shown in photographs posted on Planet Rose’s social media. Thus, the record presented issues of fact as to whether Planet Rose was negligent in failing to use tempered glass in the window to prevent a foreseeable injury.

Planet Rose contended that the window and couch were not the proximate or substantial causes of the accident, which was actually caused by Kitziger’s decision to stand on the couch, and that the couch and window merely furnished the occasion for the harm. Given the evidence that patrons of the karaoke bar sometimes stood on the couch, Kitziger’s conduct was not extraordinary or unforeseeable, and it therefore could not be said that the setup at the bar merely furnished the occasion for the harm. While Kitziger’s choice to stand on the couch raised issues of fact as to comparative negligence, the issue of whether any negligence by Planet Rose also was a substantial cause of the accident that occurred was for the jury to decide.

The property owner established its entitlement to summary judgment dismissing the complaint. The owner demonstrated that it had relinquished sufficient control of the premises to be deemed an out-of-possession landlord, and as such, was not contractually obligated to make repairs or maintain the premises. Accordingly, the owner’s liability was limited to claims based on a significant structural or design defect that was contrary to a specific statutory safety provision, which were not present or at issue here. The complaint was dismissed as against the owner.

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