A Manhattan woman who was seriously injured in 2011 when she was hit with a shopping cart that two adolescents pushed from the fourth level of a shopping center may continue to pursue claims against the property owner and the security firm on watch, a judge ruled.
But Acting Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Carmen St. George also dismissed Costco Wholesale Corp. and Bob’s Discount Furniture, which have retail locations at East River Plaza Shopping Center located at E. 117th Street in Manhattan, from the suit.
Marion Hedges, a philanthropist, and her son, Dayton Hedges, were shopping for Halloween candy at the East River Plaza on Oct. 30, 2011, when Marion Hedges was struck by a Target shopping cart that two youths had hurled from the fourth level of the shopping center, according to court papers.
Hedges suffered brain damage and neck injuries in the incident and was in a coma for a time. Hedges and her son were standing outside Costco when she was hit with the cart and the two youths, Jeovanni Rosario and Raymond Hernandez, who were 13 and 12 at the time, had just left Bob’s Furniture, according to court papers.
Rosario and Hernandez were convicted as juveniles and are not a party to the Hedgeses’ suit.
In 2012, the Hedges family filed suit against Target, Costco and Bob’s, as well as a group of property owners that includes Tiago Holdings, Forest City Ratner Cos. and Blumenfeld Development Group; ERP Management Co., which managed the property; and Planned Security Service, which provided security services in the common areas of the shopping center.
The Hedges family argued that Costco had received past complaints from customers who said they were hit with food being tossed from a walkway in the area where Hedges was hit and that Bob’s was liable because it handed out free beverages and treats to customers, which tended to attract unsupervised minors.
From there emerged a crossfire of claims between the parties in the suit, with Target seeking common-law indemnification claims against the property owners and Planned Security. Tiago and Planned Security also filed suit against Rosario and Hernandez.
In 2016, Target settled with the Hedges family, but is seeking to recover the settlement amount from other defendants in the case.
Ruling on motions for summary judgment on Hedges’ claims filed by the defendants in the case, St. George said Costco was not in control of the area where Hedges was injured, which was in a common area of the shopping center and located 50 feet from the store’s entrance, and there was no evidence that Bob’s negligently supervised Rosario and Hernandez while they were in the store.
But turning to the property owners, St. George said there were at least seven complaints in the six months leading up to Hedges’ injury of objects being thrown from the elevated walkways of the shopping center, which raises questions as to whether they took steps to prevent a foreseeable danger.
As for the security firm, the judge said it had a duty to the plaintiffs, and that, considering evidence that it was aware of past incidents of objects being thrown from the walkways, there are issues of fact as to whether it took reasonable steps to protect customers.
Planned Security had four guards on duty at the time of the incident, said Matthew Gaier of Kramer, Dillof, Livingston & Moore, who represents the Hedgeses.
Gaier, who worked with Kramer Dillof partners Thomas Moore and Carmine Rubino on the case, said of St. George’s ruling that the property owners and the security company were the “main culprits” in the incident, as the parties had previously been made aware of objects thrown from walkways.
“You’ve virtually got an epidemic at this shopping center of this kind of behavior,” Gaier said.
Patrick Geraghty of Wilson Elser Moskowitz Edelman & Dicker, who appeared for the property owners, declined to comment on the ruling.