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Lots of Anger - Road Rage at a Dead Stop
by Ron Davis

The widow of a tenant who was slain at an Oregon retail/office complex will collect a substantial payment from the complex's property manager as a result of a recent court decision.

The property manager of the Portland complex--Jeffrey Center--is American Property Management Corp., and the slaying occurred in the parking garage of the facility. The tenant, who operated a bakery in Jeffrey Center, was stabbed to death by an attendant of the parking garage in a dispute over parking privileges.

Details in the case show that the back door of the tenant's bakery opened onto the driveway of the parking garage. And the tenant used that door for deliveries. But the tenant's lease prohibited delivery vehicles from parking in the garage driveway after 8 a.m. That's because after 8 a.m., the garage became very busy and any delivery vehicles parked in the driveway after that time of the morning would obstruct and interfere with customers' use of the garage.

The tenant, however, regularly ignored that lease provision. And, as a result, he and the garage parking attendant had several heated exchanges regarding the matter.

On the evening prior to the tenant's slaying, he drove his car into the garage just before the attendant left work for the day and asked the attendant to park the car. The attendant refused. In response, the tenant reportedly called the attendant a "son of a bitch" and threatened to "get even." The tenant then apparently threw his keys at the attendant and walked into the bakery.

The next morning, the attendant related the prior evening's exchange to his supervisor. The supervisor told the attendant not to permit the tenant to park his vehicle in the garage and that she would send the tenant a letter reminding him that he had no parking privileges there.

That evening, the tenant again drove into the parking garage before the attendant left work for the day, and the attendant told the tenant that he could not park in the garage. The tenant then allegedly cursed and grabbed the attendant around the neck and began to choke him. In the scuffle, the attendant pulled a knife and stabbed the tenant in the chest. The tenant later died from the wound.

The widow sued the property manager, claiming that it was "vicariously liable" for the employee's conduct in the incident. And at trial, a jury agreed and awarded her damages.

The property manager appealed, arguing that the widow did not offer sufficient evidence to prove vicarious liability. And an appellate court agreed and reversed the jury verdict. The widow then appealed.

In ruling in favor of the widow, the appellate court reconsidered its earlier decision in favor of the property manager and concluded, "Reasonable jurors could find that the supervisor's directive to the attendant not to permit the tenant to park in the garage was a necessary precursor to the stabbing and that the stabbing was a direct outgrowth and was engendered by conduct that was within the scope of the attendant's employment." (Bray v. American Property Management Corp., 988 P.2d 933 [Or.App. 1999]) Decision: December 1999
Published: February 2000



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