The children of a woman killed by her husband at the home of a friend can’t collect damages from the homeowner because she engaged in a kiss and provocative dancing, Alaska Supreme Court ruled.
The homeowner, who was shot and wounded, acknowledged the dancing was meant to tease a jealous husband. But justices said they would not give the homeowner, or victims of domestic violence, the duty to prevent their own abuse and then hold them liable when they fail.
“We reject the idea that victims are responsible for the violence they endure in the home, and we will not blame them for their otherwise reasonable actions simply because those actions foreseeably result in violence,” said the opinion written by Justice Dana Fabe on Friday.
The civil lawsuit was filed in response to a December 2006 homicide near Wasilla.
Simone Greenway, then 49, had become friends with Carrie Randall-Evans, 32, who had confided to her that she feared her husband, Jeffrey Evans, 47. Greenway also had witnessed Jeffrey Evans insult and threaten to beat his wife.
The night of the shooting, the three were at Greenway’s home, along with William Anthony, 46, a friend of Greenway.
At some point in the evening, the women began dancing together. While dancing, they kissed and touched. Greenway in an affidavit acknowledged they were “laughing and joking and making fun” of Jeffrey Evans because of his jealousy. He was “stone cold, no emotion,” according to Greenway’s account but left the room and returned with a gun.
Evans shot Greenway. He shot Anthony five times as Anthony fled into the street. He returned to Greenway and shot her again in the chest. He chased his wife into the home’s garage and shot her three times, including once in the back of the head. He then shot and killed himself.
Greenway and Anthony survived.
The lawsuit was filed by David Hurn, the father of Carrie Randall-Evans’ two children. His attorney claimed that Greenway as the homeowner had an obligation to protect her guests. Justices said landowners must keep property reasonably safe but do not have a duty to control guests.
Justices also ruled that Greenway could not have foreseen the rampage and had no duty to avoid provoking Jeffrey Evans. Liability in the case would have been unprecedented, justices said, and they added that they would not establish such liability.
“If Greenway is liable for taunting an abusive husband, it follows that victims themselves may be liable for provoking their partners if the result is harm to a third party,” the opinion said.
“We reject the idea that victims are responsible for the violence they endure in the home, and we will not blame them for their otherwise reasonable actions simply because those actions foreseeably result in violence.”