Plaintiff Successfully Appeals Decision on Matter Involving Altercation with Movie Theater Employee

September, 2021

At 10:00 p.m., on April 23, 2011, Plaintiff Victor Norwood, together with six friends, including Melvin Smith, went to the movies at AMC Loews in Garden City, New York. (A. 162). After waiting on line for about 15 minutes to buy refreshments, a verbal dispute arose among Mr. Norwood, Mr. Smith, the Loews manager Eric C. Adams and security personnel, who were contracted by Loews to provide security services. At the time, Mr. Adams was a manager at this AMC Loews theater; his job duties included supervising the security guards.

Mr. Adams claims that, before this verbal dispute, security guards responded to a “ruckus in the front of the theater,” allegedly caused by Plaintiff and his friends. In contrast, as Plaintiff waited on line for the concession stand, he heard a loud noise coming from “behind the concession stand.” Plaintiff said “aw, shoot, they wasting food,” or something to that effect. While Mr. Adams claimed that Plaintiff did not express lamentation for wasted food but instead stated “what the f--- is wrong with that b----?”, Plaintiff’s testimony does not support this assertion. And, while Mr. Adams claimed that Plaintiff next cursed at him and “stepped towards” him, threatening to physically assault Mr. Adams, Plaintiff’s testimony does not support that assertion, either. 
Plaintiff asked Mr. Adams, “Who are you?” Mr. Adams replied, “Security management.” Plaintiff responded by saying “Congratulations” before turning his back on Mr. Adams. During this exchange, Mr. Adams was “kind of rude,” telling Plaintiff to “get the f--- out of my theater.” This verbal exchange lasted for about a minute.
Once it became apparent that Mr. Adams was revoking Plaintiff’s admission into the theater, Plaintiff told Mr. Adams he wanted a refund for the movie ticket he had purchased. Mr. Adams told Plaintiff that he would not get a refund. Plaintiff said he would not leave without a refund. Plaintiff then walked towards the concession stand.

As time went on, Mr. Adams “[v]erbally got more aggressive” with Plaintiff. In addition, “Melvin Smith began to … get aggressive with” Mr. Adams verbally, telling Mr. Adams to “get out of here.” Mr. Adams next brandished an expandable metal baton, also known as a telescope baton or an “ASP,” commonly used by law enforcement agencies. Plaintiff responded to this aggressive, threatening behavior with laughter. Mr. Adams then “disappeared.”

At this time, another Loews employee told Plaintiff that Mr. Adams was a security guard. Mr. Adams left the theater to retrieve a second weapon, to wit, an “airsoft pistol” holstered in a black utility belt. Mr. Adams got the weapon from his vehicle, parked in the Loews parking lot. Mr. Adams then put the utility belt on, adding to his collection of weaponry.

While Mr. Adams claimed that Plaintiff was already outside the theater building, on the sidewalk, when Mr. Adams returned to the theater building after retrieving the airsoft gun from his car, both Plaintiff and William Wright, an AMC general manager, testified to the contrary. Mr. Wright saw Mr. Adams — on surveillance footage from April 23, 2011 — reentering the Loews theater building holding his arsenal: a utility belt, a metal expandable baton and a gun. Mr. Wright added that Mr. Adams entered into the Loews office, holding these three items. Plaintiff testified similarly to Mr. Wright, stating that Mr. Adams reentered the theater and asked, “Everyone ready to leave now?” Plaintiff responded in the affirmative and began to leave. At this point, no Loews employee tried to stop or intervene, even though Mr. Adams was armed with at least two weapons.

Mr. Adams next took Plaintiff and his friends out of the Loews lobby and onto the sidewalk immediately outside the building. Mr. Adams brandished the airsoft gun, which “looked like a cop gun,” aiming the weapon directly at Plaintiff’s head. While Mr. Adams claims that the gun was never drawn, and that Plaintiff verbally threatened him, Mr. Adams pled guilty to disorderly conduct in response to the original charge of Menacing in the 2nd degree with a Weapon, in violation of Penal Law §120.14(01), which was brought against him as a result of the April 23, 2011 incident. 

When Mr. Adams pulled out his weapon, Plaintiff’s friend, Melvin Smith, jumped in front of Plaintiff, attempting to protect him from Mr. Adams’ threat of assault. While raising his hands, Mr. Smith shouted, “Shoot me.” In fear of losing his life, Plaintiff and his friends then fled. But, realizing that he had done nothing wrong, Plaintiff stopped running and returned to the theater, where he spoke with police about the incident. Prior to this incident, Plaintiff had not been involved in any type of altercation or fight, although he had been to the Loews theater “more than a hundred times.”

Throughout this entire incident, Defendants Simon, Loews and AMC took no action to prevent Mr. Adams from assaulting, harassing, threatening, and injuring, Plaintiff. Further, the security guards employed by both Loews and Simon failed to intervene at any point in time.

As noted above, Mr. Adams was arrested on April 23, 2011 and charged with Menacing in the 2nd degree with a Weapon. On May 3, 2011, Mr. Adams pled guilty to disorderly conduct, and an order of protection was issued against Mr. Adams on Plaintiff’s behalf. As a result of this incident, Plaintiff was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.

On December 15, 2021, the judges found in Mr. Norwood’s favor. They stated that the defendants “failed to demonstrate their prima facie entitlement to judgment as a matter of law dismissing the vicarious liability cause of action insofar as asserted against the AMC defendants. … Unquestionably, Adams’s response to the plaintiff and his friends was ‘in poor judgment’ … and contrary to the AMC defendants’ policy, but ‘this in itself does not absolve [the AMC] defendants of liability for his acts,” the judges wrote in their decision.

Mr. Norwood was represented by Fred Brewington. The decision can be viewed here.