Byron grants summary judgment for defendant in cold pizza shooting case

Steve Korris Jul. 21, 2005, 7:00am

Madison County Circuit Judge Nicholas Byron has ruled that owners of an Alton Days Inn hotel are not responsible for the actions of an angry hotel guest who shot a delivery man because his pizza was cold.

Byron granted summary judgment in favor of defendants Amratlal Bhulabhai Patel and Alton Hotel Investors, doing business as Days Inn, after a July 15 hearing.

His ruling was especially remarkable because just an hour earlier Byron denied summary judgment in another case. He recalled, with some emotion, that 18 years earlier an appeals court had reversed his summary judgment decision. Since then, Byron said he was reluctant to make the call.

Plaintiff Richard Rodden can now claim damages only against the shooter, Hoyt Ray. A jury convicted Ray of aggravated battery with a firearm and sent him to prison in 2001.

Ray checked into the Alton Days Inn on Feb. 5, 2000, with a woman and two children. The next day, they ordered pizza from an Imo's restaurant.

The pizza arrived, but Ray called Imo's to complain that it was cold. Imo's sent Rodden to Days Inn with a second pizza.

In the hall outside Ray's room, Redden apologized for the cold pizza. Without warning, Ray shot Rodden in the chest. Rodden survived.

In 2002, attorney William Miller of Alton sued the hotel and Ray on Rodden's behalf.

Attorney Jane Unsell of Alton, representing the hotel, moved last year for summary judgment. She argued that Rodden could not prove negligence.

Miller opposed the motion at the hearing before Byron. He argued that Rodden was an invitee of the hotel and that the shooting was forseeeable.

He told Byron that police received 111 calls to Days Inn in six years, claiming that police reported four armed robberies, six burglaries, seven vehicle thefts and six batteries.

Days Inn provided security, creating a special relationship between Days Inn and Rodden, Miller said.

Unsell told Byron that Rodden was not an invitee and the shooting was not foreseeable. She said Ray had caused no trouble at the hotel prior to shooting Rodden.

"To compel the motel to go beyond the reasonable security would just be unrealistic," Byron said. He granted the motion.

Rodden faces a dim prospect in pursuing damages from the man who shot him. After Ray's conviction, a judge sentenced him to 25 years in prison.

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