Edward Tyson is an African American man who was the victim of violence outside a bar in a small town in Cheboygan County. His assailant, widely known as a belligerent racist, repeatedly called Mr. Tyson the N word and punched him in the head until he lay on the ground bleeding. The operators of the bar knew about the assault but took no action to protect Tyson, did not ask the assailant to leave, and did not even call the police. Tyson sued both his assailant and the owners of the bar in state court, but the trial court dismissed his case against the bar, ruling that they had no duty to protect or help him.
On appeal, the ACLU of Michigan filed a friend-of-the-court brief, arguing that due to the history of private acts of racial violence at places of public accommodation and the constitutional requirement that courts provide equal protection under the law, Michigan law should be understood to require that merchants make their premises equally safe for members of all races. In April 2021 the Michigan Court of Appeals reversed the trial court’s dismissal of Tyson’s lawsuit, ruling that business owners have a duty to use reasonable care to protect their identifiable invitees from the foreseeable criminal acts of third parties, and a jury in Tyson’s case could find that the operators of the bar had a duty to call the police.
(Tyson v. Dawkins; ACLU Attorneys Mark P. Fancher and Dan Korobkin; Cooperating Attorney Samuel Bagenstos.)