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Sunday, January 25, 2015

FELIX PEGUERO VS. TAU KAPPA EPSILON LOCAL CHAPTER, TAU KAPPA EPSILON NATIONAL CHAPTER, GREG SPINNER AND THOMAS PRICE, ET AL. A-5419-12T4

FELIX PEGUERO VS. TAU KAPPA EPSILON LOCAL CHAPTER, TAU KAPPA EPSILON NATIONAL CHAPTER, GREG SPINNER AND THOMAS PRICE, ET AL.
A-5419-12T4

Plaintiff attended a large party hosted at a private residence rented by several fraternity members. After consuming several drinks, plaintiff interceded in an argument that erupted in the backyard among other persons who were at the party. While trying to assist a friend involved in that argument, plaintiff was shot and wounded by another person who was at the party. The shooter was never apprehended or identified. There was no evidence that the fraternity had any past incidents involving guns on the premises or involving violent criminal behavior. There was also no proof that the shooter was a minor or a visibly intoxicated person who had been served alcohol at the party.
Plaintiff brought a negligence action against the national fraternity, the local fraternity chapter, and several students who were leaders or members of the fraternity. Defendants moved for summary judgment, which the trial court granted.
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We affirm the summary judgment order because we agree with the motion judge that there was no evidence showing that it was reasonably foreseeable that plaintiff would have been shot by a third party while attending an event hosted by the fraternity members. Hence, defendants breached no legal duty to plaintiff and were entitled to a judgment dismissing his negligence claims. For various reasons, the circumstances presented here are distinguishable from those in Clohesy v. Food Circus Supermarkets, 149 N.J. 496 (1997) and Butler v. Acme Markets, Inc., 89 N.J. 270 (1982), in which the Supreme Court recognized that the defendant supermarket owners owed a duty to protect their patrons from foreseeable criminal acts occurring on their premises.