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Connecticut Appellate Court Affirms Summary Judgment in Favor of Howd & Ludorf, LLC Client in Wrongful Death Case.

    On September 11, 2012, the Connecticut Appellate Court upheld summary judgment in favor of Howd & Ludorf, LLC client 5 Star Amusements in the case of Estate of Mills v. City of Bridgeport and 5 Star Amusements, LLC ( AC 32792  ).  5 Star was represented by Howd & Ludorf, LLC partner Christopher Vossler.  The case arose out of a tragic shooting at a summer carnival that was held at the city-owned Seaside Park in Bridgeport, Connecticut. The mother of the deceased brought suit against the City, the carnival promoter and  the ride vendor, 5 Star Amusements, claiming that they had a duty to control the premises and failed to provide adequate security for the carnival.  Howd and Ludorf moved for summary judgment, arguing that as the ride vendor, it owed no legal duty to the plaintiff as it did not own, possess or control the property where the decedent was shot.  We further argued that C.G.S. Section 7-284 dictates that the municipality is responsible for determining the amount of security for events such as the carnival.  The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of 5 Star, and the plaintiff appealed, arguing that there was a question of fact as to whether 5 Star had possession and control of the premises because the promoter of the event had written 5 Starís name on the Event Permit application as a co-applicant.  

Attorney Vossler argued that the promoter had used 5 Starís name without 5 Starís knowledge, authority or consent, as evidenced by the deposition transcripts and affidavits of representatives from both 5 Star and the promoter which were submitted in support of summary judgment.  The Appellate Court affirmed summary judgment for 5 Star, holding that there was no question that its role was limited to providing the rides, games and concessions.  The Appellate Court further held that since 5 Star did not own, possess or control the park, it owed no duty to the decedent.  The Appellate Court also affirmed the lower courtís granting of summary judgment in favor of the City of Bridgeport under the doctrine of governmental immunity.  The tort case against the co-defendant shooter, and the promoter, will likely go to trial in Bridgeport sometime next year.

The outcome in this case was fact driven, but the Appellate Court did include a comprehensive review of the essential elements of a premises liability case in Connecticut.  It paid special attention to the issues of duty and possession/control.  It also is quite encouraging that the Appellate courts of Connecticut are still willing, in the right cases, to uphold a trial judgeís grant of summary judgment in common law negligence/premises liability cases.

Special thanks to Karen Dowd and Ken Bartschi of Horton, Shields & Knox who briefed and argued the appeal for 5 Star.

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