There is an interesting lawsuit coming out of Waco, Texas in the aftermath of shootings between motorcycle gangs at the Twin Peaks restaurant where nine people were killed and 18 wounded Sunday. The nearby Don Carlos Mexican Restaurant is now suing Twin Peaks for the loss of business — blaming the chain for ignoring police requests not to host the event and pandering to motorcycle gangs.
The $1 million lawsuit alleges that Twins Peaks discarded not just police advice but “basic common sense and ordinary prudence.”
Not only were customers trapped in the restaurant during the shootings but the business claims that it was later forced to close by law enforcement and the shooting cut off negotiations to sell the restaurant.
The lawsuit alleging negligence and gross negligence names as defendants Peaktastic Beverage LLC, the owner of the Waco and Harker Heights franchises, as well as Twin Peaks Investments LLC and Front Burner Restaurants GP LLC.
The lawsuit alleges management “knew or should have known the risk posed by hosting a special event for rival motorcycle gangs, and failed to control or prevent their violent actions.” It also says that Twin Peaks’ parent company actively encouraged franchisees to host events to drum up business and was aware of the “Bike Night” events hosted weekly.
Twin Peaks has gone on a public campaign to distance itself from the local franchise. It severed the franchise agreement for the Waco restaurant and moved to permanently close the restaurant.
The lawsuit presents interesting causation issues. While proximate causation is often cut off by the intentional torts or criminal conduct of third parties, courts have extended liability in some cases. For example, in Weirum v. RKO decision holding a radio station liable for injuries caused to a third party when teenagers drove recklessly to find The Real Don Steele in his marked van. The court held that the reckless driving was a foreseeable response of teenagers to the promise of free concert tickets. Likewise, in the case of Kline v. 1500 Massachusetts Avenue. In Kline a landlord was found liable for not taking precautions to protect tenants from crime in an apartment building in Washington. That case involved a tenant who remained on the property during years of decline of the neighborhood in Washington, D.C., but continued as an at-will tenant. She was aware of the crime in the area and the building. However, the court still held that the landlord was liable even though he met housing regulations. He still violated the implied warranty of habitability.
Here Twin Peaks is accused of creating the very environment that invited violence. Moreover, the failure of the sale of the Mexican restaurant is being attributed to the shooting — even though other elements could have also been involved in souring the deal. It could make for some very interesting discovery fights.
Here is the lawsuit.