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

September, 2021

On the night of April 23, 2011, Victor Norwood and his friends went to the AMC Loews Roosevelt Field 8 movie theater at the Roosevelt Field Mall in Garden City when Eric C. Adams, an employee with AMC, said that Mr. Norwood and his friends were “causing a ruckus.” Mr. Adams said they were banging on the glass outside the theater. Joined by a security guard, Mr. Adams told the group to buy tickets or leave.

After buying their tickets, they waited in line at the concession stand. A verbal altercation began between Mr. Norwood and Mr. Adams after the plaintiff made a comment about one of the concession stand workers. Mr. Adams told Mr. Norwood and his friends to leave the theater, all while the security guard was with him. The incident escalated as one of Mr. Norwood’s friends began to “get aggressive” with Mr. Adams and told him to “get out of here” and mind [his] business.” Mr. Adams then pulled out a collapsible baton and stretched it out, keeping it by his side. The plaintiff laughed at Mr. Adams, adding that he “[had] something for [Adams] in the car.” Mr. Adams walked away.

Mr. Norwood and his friends were given refunds for their tickets and left the theater, standing just outside the entrance. Mr. Adams also left the theater and retrieved a pellet gun from his car. Soon, both men resumed their altercation. Here, the details are murky: Mr. Norwood said Mr. Adams pulled the gun on him and his friends; Mr. Adams denied it. In any case, Mr. Norwood and his friends ran off. A security guard told Mr. Adams to go back inside the theater. He complied and was subsequently arrested.

When asked during his deposition why he returned to the theater, Mr. Adams replied, “I’m the manager, I can’t leave.” He added that he believed the plaintiff might have gone to his car to retrieve a weapon.

The plaintiff commenced this action against Simon Property Group, Inc.; AMC Entertainment, Inc.; AMC Loews Roosevelt Field 8; and Mr. Adams, alleging causes of action sounding in intentional infliction of emotional distress, assault and battery, vicarious liability, negligent hiring, training and supervision and negligence, among other things. The defendants moved, inter alia, for summary judgment dismissing the complaint insofar as asserted against them. On September 28, 2017, the Supreme Court, among other things, granted that branch of the defendants’ motion. The plaintiff appeals.

Mr. Adams’ responsibilities consist of ensuring the safety of customers and staff and assisting in the removal of any “disruptive or potentially violent” customers —job responsibilities similar to a security guard, even though Mr. Adams was not employed as a security guard. However, Mr. Adams exceeded his authority and violated rules at his place of employment by brandishing a pellet gun in front of the movie theater. In fact, the “AMC Theatres Manager Handbook” prohibits employees from using or bringing weapons onto AMC property.

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.