Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Hansberger v. Smith

Court of Special Appeals of Maryland

July 27, 2016

MICHAEL HANSBERGER
v.
BRADLEY SMITH, et al.

          Nazarian, Reed, Zarnoch, Robert A., (Retired, Specially Assigned), JJ.

          OPINION

          Zarnoch, J.

         On the night of July 8, 2008, appellant Michael Hansberger, and his friend, Ronald Lewis, attended two "field parties" in Frederick County where underage drinking occurred. At the second party, a brawl ensued, and Lewis threw a piece of concrete, striking Hansberger in the head and causing permanent injury. In 2011, Hansberger filed a complaint in the Circuit Court for Frederick County alleging, among other things, numerous counts of negligence against Lewis, the organizers of the parties, and the owners of the farms at which the parties were held. The appellees in the present case are Claudia Riley, Thomas Riley, Thomas Riley, Jr. and Travis Riley, (the Rileys), Charles Smith, Jane Smith, Wayne Smith, Catherine Smith, Bradley Smith (the Smiths), and Jefferson Valley, LLC, Marvin E. Ausherman, Ausherman Holding Corporation, and Ausherman Development Corporation II (the Smith property owners).[1]

         The Rileys filed a motion to dismiss the suit, or in the alternative, a motion for summary judgment. The Smiths and Jefferson Valley filed a motion for summary judgment, and the Smith property owners filed a motion to dismiss on the basis of limitations, or in the alternative, motion for summary judgment. After a hearing, the court granted the Rileys' motion to dismiss, concluding that Hansberger had failed to articulate a breach of a duty under his theory of social host liability based on Md. Code (2002, 2012 Repl. Vol., 2014 Supp.), Criminal Law Art. ("CR") § 10-117 or sustain his theory of premises liability.[2] The court granted summary judgment for the Smiths and Jefferson Valley, finding no dispute of material fact, and no duty for the same reasons. Finally, the court dismissed the Smith property owners and Catherine Smith because Hansberger added them after the statute of limitations had run.

         The case proceeded against Ronald Lewis, and Hansberger obtained a $12 million judgment against Lewis on April 22, 2015. Taking aim at the Rileys and the Smiths, Hansberger filed a timely appeal to this Court on April 27, 2015, and presents the following questions for our review:

I. "Whether [appellees] who hosted a high-risk 'field party' on their residential farms at which they negligently and illegally furnished alcoholic drinks to drunken, brawling teenagers had a duty of care to their guest who was maimed by such an inebriated minor?"
II. "Does the three year period of limitations under Maryland Code Courts and Judicial Proceedings Article § 5-101 accrue when the claimant had no knowledge or reason to know of the existence of additional [appellees] until he received discovery from the other [appellees]?"

         After the circuit court granted judgment for appellees and the case was briefed and argued, the Court of Appeals issued its opinion in Kiriakos v. Phillips, __ Md. __, No. 20, Sept. Term, 2015 (July 5, 2016), which recognized a limited form of social host liability based on a violation of CR § 10-117. Because Hansberger did not allege or produce facts that showed a violation CR § 10-117 or that demonstrated appellees' knowledge of similar brawls in the past, we hold that he has failed to show the breach of a duty of care owed to him. We also hold that, because Hansberger was aware of the nature of his injury in 2008, he could not properly add new defendants in 2013, two years after the statute of limitations expired. We affirm the circuit court.

         BACKGROUND

         The following information is taken from Hansberger's allegations as set forth in his second amended complaint and from depositions taken during discovery. On the night of July 12, 2008, Travis Riley hosted a party at his home in the Jefferson area of Frederick County-many young adults attended, including highschoolers and those under the age of 21.[3] Travis advertised the party on Facebook two days before the event and planned the music. The party was "bring your own beverage, " but one attendee brought a keg. Riley collected a fee from the attendees to drink from the keg.[4] No member of the Riley family purchased any alcohol for the party.

         The party took place in a field about 300 yards away from the family house on property that was owned by Travis's parents, Thomas and Claudia Riley. After a fight broke out, Travis ejected the attendees. Travis did not advise his parents that he planned a party at the Riley property, nor did his parents provide him with permission to host a party. In fact, Claudia Riley specifically told Travis not to host a party. The Riley parents were not home at the time, and were unaware of the event until Claudia returned home as Travis was getting people to leave.

         Bradley Smith was at the Rileys' farm, and after Travis Riley started to ask people to leave his property, Bradley invited partygoers to his parents' farm, about three miles away. He, however, did not extend a general invitation and did not specifically invite either Hansberger or Lewis. None of the members of the Riley family attended the party hosted by Bradley Smith later that night. Bradley Smith left the Riley property at approximately 11:30 p.m.

         The Smith residence was owned by Jefferson Valley, LLC.[5] Bradley Smith lived at a home on this property with his parents, Catherine and Wayne Smith. The area of the property where the party was held contained a demolished silo, and was strewn with bricks, rocks and cement pieces. The Smith party was also "bring your own beverage" and no alcohol was provided by Bradley Smith.

         Hansberger and his friend, Ronald Lewis, attended the Riley party, drank, and left when Travis ended the party. Lewis then went to another friend's house and continued to drink, until Hansberger picked him up to go to the Smith party, where they continued to drink. After Bradley Smith uttered what Lewis thought was a racist comment, Lewis punched Bradley, and a melee ensued. Most if not all of the attendees engaged in the fight, and some of the attendees threw bricks, rocks, and cement pieces found on the property grounds. Hansberger was injured shortly after 2:00 a.m., when he was hit in the head with a piece of cement while heading to the parked cars. Lewis initially admitted being the person who threw the cement. The police were called, and Lewis and other friends left the farm to take Hansberger to receive medical attention. Hansberger sustained permanent injuries. On February 11, 2009, Lewis plead guilty to reckless endangerment stemming from Hansberger's injury at the Smith party.

         None of the other Smith defendants, nor the corporate owners of the property, were aware of the party or that underage drinking was taking place on July 12, 2008. Bradley Smith's grandparents, Charles and Jane Smith, lived several houses away from the Smith farm, and were not present at the farm that evening. Similarly, Bradley Smith's parents, Wayne and Catherine Smith, were unaware of the party because they returned home around 11:00 p.m. on July 12, 2008, and went to sleep around 11:20 p.m.-before any of the partiers had arrived on their property.

         Hansberger filed this action in the Circuit Court for Frederick County on July 12, 2011, three years after the events described above. He asserted various theories of negligence liability against Ronald Lewis, the Rileys, the Smiths, and the owner of the Smith property, Jefferson Valley, LLC.[6] Following some initial discovery, on September 3, 2013, Hansberger amended his complaint to add Catherine Smith, Bradley Smith's mother, Marvin E. Ausherman, Ausherman Holding Corporation, and Ausherman Development Corp. II.

         All defendants filed dispositive motions. The Rileys filed a motion for dismissal, or, in the alternative, for summary judgment. The Smiths and Jefferson Valley filed a motion for summary judgment. Catherine Smith and the remaining Smith property owners filed a motion to dismiss on the basis of limitations, or in the alternative, a motion for summary judgment. Hansberger opposed all motions.

         The circuit court held a hearing on April 17, 2014. The Rileys, the Smiths, and Jefferson Valley argued that Hansberger failed to allege or produce facts to support the existence of a duty of care. Hansberger responded that he properly alleged a cause of action in negligence, which was based on premises liability and social host liability. He also argued that there were disputed facts, and that no defendant was entitled to judgment as a matter of law. The defendants that were added in 2013 (Catherine Smith, Marvin E. Ausherman, Ausherman Holding Corporation, and Ausherman Development Corporation II) argued for dismissal because Hansberger had added them to the action two years after the statute of limitations had run. Hansberger responded that he was permitted to sue these defendants under the discovery rule, because he had learned of them during discovery, and had added them shortly thereafter.

         Ruling from the bench, the court dismissed the later-added defendants based on limitations. The court also granted summary judgment for Jefferson Valley, reasoning that Hansberger had failed to articulate a duty owed to him. At the end of the hearing, the court took under advisement the motions to dismiss or for summary judgment with respect to the remaining defendants. On June 9, 2014, the court issued an opinion and order, dismissing the claims against the Riley defendants and granting summary judgment in favor of the Smith defendants. The court held that neither the Rileys nor Smiths breached a duty owed to Hansberger.

         Hansberger then pursued his claims against the only remaining defendant in the case, Ronald Lewis. Lewis and Hansberger reached a settlement on Hansberger's negligence claim, resulting in a judgment of $12.2 million against Lewis. Final judgment was entered on April 22, 2015. Hansberger noted his appeal of the order granting judgment for the Rileys and the Smiths on April 27, 2015.

         DISCUSSION

         We review a trial court's decision to grant a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim for legal correctness. Rounds v. Md.-Nat'l Capital Park & Planning Comm'n,441 Md. 621, 635-36 (2015). In considering an appeal from that early stage, we assume the truth of those facts and ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.