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Five Elements of Negligence - Tort Law

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A. One evening, Kelly went to the movie theatre. When the movie was over, Kelly needed to use the restroom. As she emerged from the bathroom stall and approached the sink, Kelly slipped on a puddle of water in front of the sink, crashed to the floor and landed painfully on her shoulder. Earlier in the day, the movie theatre knew the bathroom sink pipe had broken and called a plumber to come fix it. The plumber called the theatre late in the afternoon and said she could not arrive until the next day. The theater tried to shut off the water to the sink but could not. The theater did send an employee in with a mop every 15 minutes to mop up the water. However, this did not prevent the floor from becoming slippery. Kelly wishes to sue the theatre for its failure to maintain the bathroom in a safe condition.
On what theory or theories, if any, can Kelly recover from movie theatre? Discuss.
B. After Kelly fell, the theater posted an employee in front of the restroom and would not let any other patron use the restroom. When the theater closed for the night, the theater manager placed towels under the sink to absorb as much water as possible and a sign that said, "Do not enter. Wet floor."
That night, Cindy, Sandy and Teri broke into the movie theater after it had closed. Teri had worked for the theater for six months and had often used her keys to open the back door after closing to party with friends. Teri had several convictions for burglary on her record, but the theater hadn't done a background check.
The theater was completely dark. Even the exit signs that were required by statute to stay illuminated at all times were off. (The theater had taken the bulbs out of the signs because movie patrons complained that the signs were distracting.) Teri said that she knew where the theater kept some flashlights and to follow her.
As the three girls fumbled their way through the theater toward the snack bar, Cindy tripped over the cord to a vacuum that Paul, a member of the cleaning crew, had left plugged in with the cord running across the aisle. Paul is an independent contractor hired by the theater to clean the theater. He had quit early to take a nap up in the manager's office. Cindy fell head first into a row of seats, breaking her nose.
As blood poured from Cindy's face, Sandy ran to the restroom to get some paper towels. In the darkness, Sandy didn't see the sign and slipped on the wet floor, breaking her arm. Sandy cries out in pain, which wakes Paul up.
Paul turns on the theater lights and goes to investigate the screams. By the time he gets to the restroom, Sandy is gone. Paul then hears the door slam as the girls run out of the theater.
Sandy, Cindy and Teri left the theater. Paul not wanting to get in trouble for sleeping on the job decided to say nothing.
Cindy and Sandy want to sue the theater. On what theory or theories, if any, can Cindy and Kelly recover from movie theatre? Discuss.
C. The next night, the theater was getting ready for the seven o'clock show, when a patron spilled his super giant coke on the floor lighting that outlines the two aisles in the theater. This shorted out the floor lights for the entire auditorium. The unknown patron did not report this and simply moved to another seat as the movie started.
A state statute requires that "All movie theaters illuminate the auditorium aisles with one candle unit of light per linear foot. This will allow patrons to leave safely in case of an emergency."
Without the floor lighting, the theater was out of compliance with the statute.
Ed, a regular patron arrived at the theater just as the seven o'clock movie was starting. He stopped and bought a large Dr. Pepper and a jumbo buttered popcorn.
By the time Ed entered the auditorium, the house lights were out and the movie was playing. The auditorium was about 90% full. Although the theater auditorium was dark, Ed thought he saw an empty aisle seat, eight rows down, based upon the illumination reflecting off the movie screen. This had been the seat where the super giant coke had been spilled. Ed could not see the puddle of coke by the seat. As Ed stepped from the aisle carpet onto the concrete floor by the seat, his foot slipped in the puddle of coke and he broke his ankle.
As Ed lost his balance, the Dr. Pepper and popcorn flew out of his hand and landed on the head of Mrs. Witkins. Mrs. Witkins is allergic to Dr. Pepper and developed welts all over her head and neck, as an allergic reaction to the spill.
On what theory or theories, if any, can Ed and Mrs.Witkins recover damages from movie theatre? Discuss.
When responding to essay questions, using the IRAC approach to legal analysis found on page 112-115 of the Legal Research, Writing and Analysis can be very helpful. The IRAC approach forces the student to focus on the Issue, Rule, Analysis and Conclusion. A thorough response to an essay question will include a discussion of each element of the tort and the facts that demonstrate that the element was present or absent.

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A case brief describing negligence and tort law.

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