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East Texas Theatres, Inc. v. Rutledge

Supreme Court of Texas
453 S.W.2d 466 (1970)


Facts

Sheila Rutledge (plaintiff) attended a midnight movie at a theater owned by East Texas Theatres, Inc. (East Texas) (defendant). The theater had both main-floor and balcony seating. Rutledge watched the movie from a seat on the main floor. Throughout the show, the patrons were intermittently boisterous. Hollering and noise came from all over the audience and did not seem to issue from any particular group. Some paper cups from cold drinks were thrown from the balcony to the main floor. Before the conclusion of the movie, the commotion had ceased altogether. After the movie, Rutledge began to make her way out of the theater. As she proceeded up an aisle toward the exit, a person in the balcony threw a whiskey bottle to the main floor, striking Rutledge on the side of her head. No one saw who threw the bottle. Rutledge sued East Texas for negligence, claiming its failure to remove rowdy patrons from the theater was the cause of Rutledge’s injuries. A jury found in favor of Rutledge, awarding her $31,250 in damages. The court of appeals affirmed. East Texas petitioned the Supreme Court of Texas.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Smith, J.)

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