Legal Memorandum: Summary Judgment in a Tort Matter

Issue: Should summary judgment be granted in a tort matter when defendants failed either to negate evidence that it owed plaintiffs a duty of care or failed to point the court to the absence of evidence that may support plaintiffs’ allegation of duty?

Area of Law: Litigation & Procedure, Personal Injury & Negligence
Keywords: Summary judgment; Tort action; Duty of care
Jurisdiction: Virgin Islands
Cited Cases: 570 So. 2d 612; 244 N.W.2d 116; 149 F. Supp. 2d 205
Cited Statutes: Restatement (Second) of Torts § 324A, § 4
Date: 07/01/2008

See Moore v. A.H. Riise Gift Shops, 659 F. Supp. 1420 (D.V.I. 1987) (mere statement in brief that plaintiff has no evidence to support element not sufficient basis to grant defendant summary judgment). 

First, as a matter of rudimentary logic, the fact that one party owes a duty, statutory or otherwise, toward a second party does not mean that various other parties cannot also simultaneously owe duties to the second party as well.  Generally, there is nothing inherently exclusive about the definition or concept of “duty.”  See Black’s Law Dictionary 804 (5th ed. 1979) (A legal duty is “an obligation arising from a contract of the parties or the operation of the law.”).  In the absence of anything suggesting that a particular duty resides in one party exclusively, the fact that one person has a particular responsibility to a second person does not suggest or imply that a third party does not also have a duty. 

In law, particularly in tort actions, it is commonplace for there to be multiple defendants.  To establish each defendant’s liability the plaintiff must show that each defendant owed plaintiff a duty that was breached.  See Gass v. V.I. Tel. Corp., 149 F. Supp. 2d 205, 209 (D.V.I. 2001), aff’d in part, rev’d in part on other grounds, 311 F.3d 237 (3d Cir. 2002).  Thus, clearly, more than one entity may be capable of owing plaintiff a duty at the same time.  Indeed, the very […]

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