United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Southern Division
LUÍS M. MARTÍNEZ, Plaintiff,
CHRISTOPHER LINDEN ESPEY, et al., Defendants.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
MADELINE HUGHES HAIKALA UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
10, 2014, plaintiff Luis M. Martinez was playing pool at
Courtyard Oyster Bar in Alabaster, Alabama. Defendant
Christopher Espey, another bar patron, openly and repeatedly
threatened Mr. Martinez, commented on Mr. Martinez's
race, and ultimately attacked Mr. Martinez with a pool stick.
The attack left Mr. Martinez with serious facial injuries.
on these events, Mr. Martinez asserts state law claims
against Courtyard for premises liability and negligent
hiring, training, and supervision of the bar's security
guards. Pursuant to Rule 56 of the Federal Rules
of Civil Procedure, Courtyard seeks judgment as a matter of
law on all of Mr. Martinez's claims against the company.
(Doc. 39). The Court conducted a hearing on Courtyard's
motion on November 1, 2017. Consistent with the discussion
held on the record during the November 1, 2017 hearing and
for the reasons stated below, the Court grants
Courtyard's motion for summary judgment with respect to
Mr. Martinez's negligent hiring, training, and
supervision claim and denies Courtyard's motion with
respect to Mr. Martinez's premises liability claim.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
court shall grant summary judgment if the movant shows that
there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the
movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.”
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). To demonstrate that there is a genuine
dispute as to a material fact that precludes summary
judgment, a party opposing a motion for summary judgment must
cite “to particular parts of materials in the record,
including depositions, documents, electronically stored
information, affidavits or declarations, stipulations
(including those made for purposes of the motion only),
admissions, interrogatory answers, or other materials.”
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1)(A). “The court need consider only
the cited materials, but it may consider other materials in
the record.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(3).
considering a summary judgment motion, the Court must view
the evidence in the record in the light most favorable to the
non-moving party and draw reasonable inferences in favor of
the non-moving party. White v. Beltram Edge Tool Supply,
Inc., 789 F.3d 1188, 1191 (11th Cir. 2015). In this
opinion, the Court describes the evidence accordingly.
approximately 9:00 p.m. on May 9, 2014, Mr. Martinez went to
Courtyard Oyster Bar to play pool with his brother. (Doc.
38-1, pp. 10-11, 13). Two hours later, Mr. Martinez's
brother left the bar. (Doc. 38-1, p. 11). Mr. Martinez stayed
behind and played pool with another individual. (Doc. 38-1,
p. 11). Near midnight, Mr. Espey arrived at the bar. (Doc.
38-1, p. 18). Mr. Espey began playing pool near Mr. Martinez.
(Doc. 38-1, p. 15).
Martinez and Mr. Espey were not strangers. Mr. Martinez had
encountered Mr. Espey at Courtyard on two other occasions.
(Doc. 38-1, p. 11). On both occasions, Mr. Espey made
throat-slitting gestures toward Mr. Martinez. Mr. Martinez
did not report the threatening conduct to anyone at Courtyard
or to the police. (Doc. 38-1, pp. 14-15).
Martinez and Mr. Espey played pool at Courtyard in the early
morning hours on May 10, 2014, Mr. Espey made throat-slitting
and closed-fist gestures toward Mr. Martinez. (Doc. 38-1, pp.
14, 27, 67). Mr. Espey was 6 to 12 feet away from Mr.
Martinez when he made the gestures. (Doc. 38-1, p. 29). Mr.
Martinez and Mr. Espey did not speak directly with one
another (Doc. 38-1, pp. 11-12), but Mr. Martinez overheard
Mr. Espey say, “I hate Latinos” and
“[f]****** Hispanics.” (Doc. 38-1, pp. 24, 66).
Mr. Martinez testified that “many people heard”
Mr. Espey say, “I hate Latinos.” (Doc. 38-1, p.
24). When Mr. Espey made the comment, Mr. Martinez, who was
the only Latino at the bar, “turned around and looked
at” Mr. Espey, and Mr. Espey “made those gestures
that he was going to cut [Mr. Martinez's] throat.”
(Doc. 38-1, p. 24). Every time Mr. Martinez would turn
around, Mr. Espey would mock and make fun of him while making
the “gesture like he was going to slit [Mr.
Martinez's] throat.” (Doc. 38-1, p. 26).
security officers were working at Courtyard while Mr.
Martinez and Mr. Espey were playing pool. A security guard
was sitting at the front door collecting cover charges. (Doc.
38-1, pp. 23, 62). An off-duty, plainclothes police officer
was stationed inside the bar. (Doc. 38-1, p. 27). Mr.
Martinez testified that the “security and police”
at Courtyard “were watching” Mr. Espey and saw
him make the threatening gestures. (Doc. 38-1, p. 27).
some period of time, Mr. Martinez got scared and decided to
leave the bar and go home. (Doc. 38-1, p. 24). As Mr.
Martinez started to leave, Mr. Espey attacked him from behind
with a pool stick. (Doc. 38-1, pp. 14, 62). According to Mr.
Martinez, “when I have my - turned my back to him I
felt the first hit - the first blow that he busted my face,
that he broke my bones, my jaw, my orbit, my eye, and I
[be]came unconscious.” (Doc. 38-1, p. 17). When Mr.
Martinez regained consciousness, he was sitting in a chair,
and he could not breathe or talk. (Doc. 38-1, p. 17).
to Mr. Martinez, “everybody saw that the police and the
security, the bar what [Mr.] Espey would do referring to me,
” and “[n]obody did anything about it.”
(Doc. 38-1, p. 24). Mr. Martinez contends that the security
officers “didn't do anything” to try to stop
the attack “because they did not care about the
situation.” (Doc. 38-1, p. 62). Mr. Martinez testified
that Mr. Espey's gestures “were visible from
everywhere.” (Doc. 38-1, p. 65). According to Mr.
Martinez, “everybody saw what was going on and nobody
did anything to avoid it. That's why what happened to me
happened.” (Doc. 38-1, p. 65).
Negligent Hiring, Training, and Supervision
Martinez maintains that Courtyard negligently hired, trained,
and supervised the security officers who were on duty at
Courtyard at the time of his attack and that Courtyard's
negligence caused his injuries because the security officers
saw Mr. Espey making threatening gestures but did not
intervene to stop Mr. Espey from assaulting him. Under
Alabama law, “[i]n the master and servant relationship,
the master is held responsible for his servant's
incompetency when notice or knowledge, either actual or
presumed, of such unfitness has been brought to him.”
Armstrong Business Servs., Inc. v. AmSouth Bank, 817
So.2d 665, 682 (Ala. 2001). “It is not sufficient
merely to allege, or to show, that the employee acted
incompetently.” Southland Bank v. A & A Drywall
Supply Co., Inc., 21 So.3d 1196, 1216 (Ala. 2008).
Instead, “[a] plaintiff must establish ‘by
affirmative proof' that the employer actually knew of the
incompetence, or that the employer reasonably should have
known of it.” Southland Bank, 21 So.3d at 1216
(quoting Lane v. Central Bank, 425 So.2d 1098, 1100
(Ala. 1983)). A plaintiff satisfies this burden by showing
“either that he ...