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Kaechele v. Kenyon Oil Co.
Maine Supreme Judicial Court
747 A.2d 167 (2000)
Kenyon Oil Company, Inc. (Kenyon) (defendant) operated a convenience store called Xtra Mart that had a history of needing police help for store incidents. Albert Kaechele (plaintiff) went to Xtra Mart to buy a lottery ticket and visit his wife, who was working as a clerk there. The only other Xtra Mart employee present was another clerk. A customer became agitated and physical when Kaechele’s wife and the other clerk refused to sell cigarettes to the customer. The customer eventually struck Kaechele in the face, causing serious injuries. Kaechele sued Kenyon, arguing that Kenyon was negligent because it had failed to take steps to protect its customers from a known risk of violence. One element of the negligence claim was that Kenyon knew or should have known about the danger at its Xtra Mart facility. To prove this element, Kaechele asked to present evidence about prior calls that Xtra Mart had made to the police in which Xtra Mart reported incidents at the facility. The trial court determined that some of the proposed evidence had a danger of unfair prejudice that substantially outweighed its probative or helpful value and excluded that evidence. For example, the court excluded evidence that a prior assault at Xtra Mart had caused serious injuries. The court also excluded a list that set out all the reasons that Xtra Mart had previously called the police. However, the trial court did admit evidence that (1) Xtra Mart called the police often, (2) Xtra Mart was one of the most frequent sources of police calls in the area, (3) many of the calls were about violent matters, and (4) not all the calls were about violent matters. The jury found that Xtra Mart and Kenyon were both negligent and awarded Kaechele $168,000 in damages. Kenyon appealed.
Rule of Law
Holding and Reasoning (Saufley, J.)
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