While 10-year-old Colmore Rinehart IV was playing with friends in the playground of the Boys and Girls Club, he was hit in the head by a rock thrown by an unknown assailant from outside the premises. Colmore was enrolled in an after-school program at the club.

Through his guardian, Rinehart brought this lawsuit against the club, alleging there should have been more than one supervisor for the playground area. Club officials replied they had never seen any nonmembers throwing rocks from outside the fenced playground.

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Supervisor Briana Joy Baker, who had an unobstructed view of Rinehart and his friends, said she had not observed anything unusual before the event.

If you were the judge would you rule the Boys and Girls Club is liable to Colmore Rinehart for his injuries due to negligent supervision?

The judge said no!

The criminal assault and battery by an outside nonmember was not foreseeable as there had been no previous similar rock throwing incidents at the club, and there was no evidence additional playground supervision could have prevented Rinehart’s injury, the judge began.

“It is well-established that to succeed on a claim based on negligence, it must be shown that the defendant owed the plaintiff a legal duty, that the defendant breached that duty, and that the breach was a proximate or legal cause of injuries suffered by the plaintiff,” the judge explained.

For a property owner to be liable to an injured plaintiff for premises liability, he continued, the plaintiff must prove (a) the defendant had a duty to the plaintiff based on foreseeability as evidenced by prior similar incidents, and (b) the defendant failed to take reasonable measures to prevent such injury by outside third parties.

Rinehart has failed to show a causal link between his injuries and any negligent failure by the club to supervise the playground, he ruled. Therefore, the club has no liability for negligence to Rinehart, the judge concluded.

Based on the 2005 California Court of Appeal decision in Rinehart v. Boys and Girls Club of Chula Vista, 34 Cal.Rptr.3d 677.

(For more information on Bob Bruss publications, visit his
Real Estate Center
).

***

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