California court allows trucker to amend lawsuit against Oakland Coliseum Authority

By Mark Schremmer, Land Line staff writer | 9/5/2017

A California court granted the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum Authority’s motion for judgment in a negligence lawsuit filed by a truck driver who was shot after being denied parking at the Oakland Coliseum. However, the plaintiff will have the opportunity to amend the lawsuit, attorney Nick Casper said.

“The court’s initial ruling was unfavorable to us, saying that he’s granted the motion but he’s giving us the opportunity to amend our lawsuit to try to fit the case to state a claim of relief that’s recognized under California law,” Casper said.

OOIDA Life Member Jerry Matson, 74, of Auburn, Ind., was shot in December 2015 while parked about a half-mile from the Oakland Coliseum. Earlier that night, Matson said he arrived at the stadium gate to deliver a Caterpillar Entertainment Generator and was told by security he wasn’t allowed to park there and was eventually directed to park on the opposite side of Interstate 880.

About 10:30 p.m. that night, Matson awoke to the sound of someone breaking into his truck. The longtime truck driver was then shot in the lower right abdomen by a .45 caliber firearm. The intruder, who has never been caught, fled the scene. The shooting forced Matson to undergo multiple surgeries after he sustained infections.

In January, Matson sued the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum Authority, arguing that the negligence of the coliseum’s employees placed him in harm’s way. The lawsuit said the Authority’s previous actions of allowing Matson to park overnight played a role in its negligence.

“Defendant voluntarily and repeatedly permitted plaintiff to spend the night within the secure gates of the Oakland Coliseum during the course of plaintiff’s prior deliveries,” Matson’s attorneys wrote in the opposition the defendant’s motion. “Plaintiff reasonably relied upon defendant’s course of conduct. Given these circumstances, defendant had a duty not to unreasonably, and without warning, terminate its practice of permitting (Matson) to spend the night within the gates, especially when doing so would endanger (Matson). Furthermore, defendant directed (Matson) to park in a nearby area that defendant knew or should have known was unreasonably dangerous, and (Matson) reasonably relied on defendant’s direction to his immediate detriment.”

The Authority responded by filing a motion to dismiss as a matter of law. According to the OACCA, it did not have an on-going duty to allow the plaintiff to spend the night in the parking lot, it didn’t negligently undertake to keep plaintiff safe from third-party criminal conduct off its premises, it didn’t negligently terminate a voluntary service, and that it didn’t have a duty to protect plaintiff from third-party criminal conduct that occurred off its premises.

“OACCA did not affirmatively place (Matson) in a situation which exposed him to an unreasonable risk of harm, because it was not foreseeable that directing (Matson) to park off its premises would result in someone attempting to rob and murder him,” OACCA wrote.

The lawsuit fails as a matter of law because the defendant didn’t have a legal duty to protect Matson from a third-party away from its premises, the OACCA wrote. Holding a property owner liable for a third-party criminal act that occurs away from the owner’s property would create a slippery slope, they argued.

“For example, if after plaintiff was turned away from defendant’s parking lot, plaintiff stayed at a hotel and was assaulted walking to his hotel room, could defendant be held liable? What if the attack occurred the morning after when plaintiff was returning to his truck after spending the night in the hotel? These questions demonstrate the futility of attempting to impose such a duty. The court must conclude that defendant did not owe a duty to protect plaintiff from third-party acts that occurred off its premises.”

Casper said he plans to amend the lawsuit.

Matson, who attempted to return to work after about a year, said he had to stop driving again because of various ailments caused by the shooting. He said he is still coping with post-traumatic stress from the incident and would wake up afraid every time he heard a noise at night.

“Every time I hear something, I’m right back in that moment,” he said.

Matson is suing for lost wages, medical expenses, lost earning capacity, and for pain and suffering.

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