Update (May 19, 2011): Today the Minnesota Supreme Court issued its denial of a petition for review — most likely the end of the road for Mr. Schroepfer’s case.
Original post (March 18, 2011): Ron Schroepfer was in the Finish Line Cafe in Princeton, Minnesota (Sherburne County) and another patron of the bar was behaving like a jerk. Schroepfer suggested that the jerk “keep it mellow.” Shortly thereafter, Schroepfer went to the floor with a broken jaw.
Schroepfer lost in a jury trial before Sherburne County District Judge Thomas D. Hayes against the Finish Line Cafe. There was evidence that the jerk’s combative behavior was prolonged and the bar permitted him to hassle numerous customers; this was the basis of Schroepfer’s action against the Cafe. (The assailant was never found. The Cafe apparently lost video of the incident.) But Schroepfer’s lawyers were unable to reverse numerous unfavorable evidentiary rulings made by the trial court judge on appeal (including a denied request for an adverse inference based on the lost video).
The unpublished appellate decision does not make “new law” but the case highlights the broad discretion of trial judges on evidentiary rulings and their sometimes very significant repercussions to a party’s case.