Every business which opens its doors to the public owes a duty of care to their patrons, a duty to make sure the patron is safe and free from harm. Often, this is as simple as keeping walkways clear and ensuring spills and other hazards are cleaned up in a timely fashion. But what most businesses have never contemplated is a possibility that the duty of care would be owed to something other than a real, live, breathing person. Could the persons to which a merchant owes a duty of care include “juridical” personhood, such as a corporation or a limited liability company (L.L.C.)? In this instance, the answer was, “no.”
In April of 2013, Deborah Norred slipped and fell in the bathroom of the New Orleans Hamburger and Seafood restaurant on South Clearview Parkway in Jefferson Parish. She filed a lawsuit against the restaurant for negligence. Mrs. Norred was also the only member of American Rebel Arms, an L.L.C. on the verge of opening a firearms store in Holden. American Rebel Arms also filed a lawsuit against New Orleans Hamburger and Seafood for Mrs. Norred’s injury, claiming the injuries postponed the opening of the store, causing economic losses.
The restaurant argued that it had no duty of care to American Rebel Arms. It moved for a peremptory exception for no cause of action. A “peremptory exception” is a court motion which requests the court dismiss the lawsuit. Filing a peremptory exception for no cause of action means that there is no valid claim for which the plaintiff can demand relief. In short, the Defendant did nothing wrong, or at least nothing actionable under law. The Trial Court granted the exception, and American Rebel Arms appealed.