Pharmacist persuades a female customer to stay over night at his house. When his wife is gone. Girlfriend is unaware he has a wife and, indeed, is told to the contrary. Wife appears at an inopportune time. Fight ensues. Girlfriend gets hurt. Lawsuit follows. Girlfriend seeks to hold wife and husband responsible for her injuries.
Husband: "I owe no duty to that woman." Dinner? "Yes." Flowers? "Yes." Warm B & B by candlelight while nestled in a king-size bed playfully wrapped in a leopard skin comforter with Rod Stewart’s "Great American Songbook Collection" playing softly in the background? "Yes." Duty? "Now just a damn minute."
The trial judge disagreed and a jury popped him with a percentage of fault for the injuries for her significant injuries. Judge Lee wrote the opinion for our Court of Appeals and affirmed. She quickly found a duty existed, and said this on the issue of breach of duty:
"[W]e find that the record contains material evidence from which the jury could have reasonably concluded that Mr. Bell breached the duty of care he owed to Ms. Carter in that while she was in a physically and mentally vulnerable condition he deceived her into entering into a relationship that she would have otherwise rejected and thereby eventually lured her into his house and exposed her to a likelihood of harm at the hands of his wife, whom he knew to have a propensity for violence."
Judge Lee did not have as much fun with this opinion as she could have as she could have. These facts could readily result in an opinion that could give rise to disciplinary action against the entire panel. Don’t get me wrong – she did the right thing. But I wonder if , deep down inside, she was tempted to grab a glass of Cabernet and let the words flow.
Judge Lee did include one particularly memorable phrase in this opinion. The plaintiff (Ms. Carter) was picking up a prescription for anxiety and pain from the local Rite Aid when she meet the male defendant pharmacist, Mr. Bell. Mr. Bell then used what apparently is a tried and true method for picking up women in New Tazwell : he "engaged her in friendly conversation and offered her cigarettes."
And I thought that only worked in the automotive aisle at Wal-Mart.
Want to read the entire opinion? Go here to enjoy Carter v. Bell, No. E2006-02671-COA-R3-CV (August 15, 2007).