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by Michael Blahy
An invitation to a private party on February 15, 2010, where Muddy Rivers, a Grand Forks bar, provided an open bar for its off-duty employees and guests, resulted in intoxicated patrons.
While Carol Forsman was helping Richard Martin, a Muddy Rivers' employee attending the party, care for an intoxicated individual, Rose Christianson, an obviously intoxicated guest at the party, Amanda Espinoza assaulted, physically attacked or pushed Forsman to the ground. Forsman suffered serious injuries to her leg as a result of Espinoza's actions.
Forsman filed a complaint against Espinoza with the Grand Forks Police Department and two police officers investigated the incident. The Grand Forks County State's Attorney's Office declined to pursue charges against Espinoza.
Forsman sued Muddy Rivers and Espinoza jointly and severally, alleging Muddy Rivers knowingly provided alcoholic beverages to an obviously intoxicated guest (Espinoza) at the party. Muddy Rivers notified their insurance company, United Fire & Casualty Company, with whom they held a commercial general liability policy, of the action against them, but the insurer abandoned their client, denied defense and indemnity.
Forsmans case became difficult when Muddy Rivers filed a pre-trial motion and the district court ruled to prevent the introduction into evidence of all hearsay statements in police reports prepared after police officers investigated the incident. Trial was held in 2011, where Forsman presented the remainder of her case. After Forsman rested, Muddy Rivers presented a motion arguing that Forsman failed to present evidence to support her claim. The district court granted Muddy Riversí motion for judgement.
Carol Forsman appealed in 2012, arguing the district court erred in its judgment arguing sufficient evidence was presented, citing previous court decisions. The appeals court reversed the judgment, so the case continued. Prior to a trial on remand, a Miller-Shugart agreement had been reached where Muddy Rivers admitted liability, but the collection on the judgment of $249,554.30 limited to the insurer, United Fire & Casualty Company.
In April 2016, Forsman now had to file a complaint, and a garnishment action against United Fire, asserting that the insurance policy covers her premises liability claim. United Fire countered that they have no liability due to exclusions in the policy. The court found that United Fire had an obligation to defend and indemnify Muddy Rivers.
The case continues.
(Forsman v. Blues Brews and Bar-B-Ques dba Muddy Rivers - No. 20170088)
Decision: November 2017
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