Williams v. Employers Liability Assurance Corp., Ltd.

269 F.2d 569 (1961)

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Williams v. Employers Liability Assurance Corp., Ltd.

United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit
269 F.2d 569 (1961)

Facts

Philomene Williams (plaintiff) was sexually assaulted on her first work day at a New Orleans, Louisiana building when a young man followed Williams into a bathroom and accosted her at knifepoint. Prior sexual-assault incidents had occurred in the building, only some of which were reported to the police. Williams sued the building’s owner, operator, and applicable insurer, Employers Liability Assurance Corp. (collectively, the building owners) (defendants), in the United States District Court in New Orleans. At trial, the court gave the jury instructions based on a negligence standard of the building owner exercising reasonable and ordinary care to maintain a safe building. Williams’s attorney argued for an absolute-liability standard based on Louisiana’s civil code, which provided that the owner of a premises was strictly liable for items thrown or poured out of a building. The trial court refused to instruct on that basis, and the jury returned a defense verdict based on the negligence standard. Williams appealed to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. [Editor’s Note: Louisiana and Puerto Rico are the only United States jurisdictions that use a common law-civil law approach.]

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Wisdom, J.)

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