Bar Fights and Duty of Care
In serving alcohol, bars and restaurants walk a fine line; they must serve enough to make a profit, but not so much as to endanger customers. Victims in bar fights frequently hold the venue in which the fight occurred liable. But is it really the proprietor's fault if visitors misbehave?
According to some courts, yes — bars and restaurants can be held liable. Read on to learn about duty of care as it applies to bar and restaurant owners.
Duty of Care at Bars and Restaurants
Bars and restaurants hold a duty of care — owners must maintain safe conditions at their premises. As with other businesses, this means constructing and maintaining premises to prevent slip-and-fall accidents and other potential injuries.
At venues that serve alcohol, duty of care extends well beyond physical hazards imposed by stationary objects. Employees must also monitor patron behavior and intervene if patrons drink 'too much' or become disorderly. Those who fail to take action risk expensive lawsuits.
State laws vary when it comes to premises liability, but you can generally expect to find some type of accountability when it comes to protecting patrons. Inadequate security could mean liability in the event of a violent confrontation between two people at the establishment. If a business fails to provide some sort of security, like a bouncer, it could be negligent in its obligations to customers.
Risks Posed by Bouncers and Security Guards
A bouncer's presence doesn't necessarily eliminate the risk of lawsuit. While they can quickly break up fights and provide a valuable source of crowd control, bouncers pose problems of their own. For example: if, in the act of ending a fight, a bouncer accidentally injures a bystander, accusations of excessive force may follow. Many venues avoid such risks by monitoring consumption in advance, to reduce the risk of disorderly conduct in the first place.
Predicting Patron Behavior
Premises liability issues never cease to cause headaches for business owners, but they're particularly complicated for bar and restaurant proprietors. In some commercial settings, entrepreneurs can accurately predict how their customers will behave in most situations. Serving alcohol, however, is a whole other matter.
Stanford University's Dr. Adrienne Heinz explains that only a small minority of drinkers behave aggressively. However, it's virtually impossible for bartenders to predict who will get into a fight and under what circumstances. Likewise, it's difficult to prove that bar owners knew of the potential for violence, but failed to take proper precautions. Patrons may drink before arriving at the bar, or may appear sober before they lash out.
To avoid litigation, proprietors must make it clear that they understand the potential for fights and have strengthened security protocol accordingly. This is particularly important for venues with a history of alcohol-fueled violence. Security measures could include hiring additional bouncers or implementing stricter protocol regarding the number of drinks served.
Given the inherent complications of bar-related premises liability claims, it's important to work with an attorney with a strong track record in this personal injury niche. Assertive legal representation can make all the difference.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: David Mann
David Mann is a graduate of the University of Alabama. He received his undergraduate degree in speech communication and later worked in Washington, D.C. on the House Committee for Veterans Affairs. Afterwards, David attended and graduated from Mercer University's Walter F. George School of Law. David Mann, is now a personal injury lawyer located in Macon, Georgia. David has been practicing law and representing clients since 1997.
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Disclaimer: While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication, it is not intended to provide legal advice as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with an expert and/or lawyer. For specific technical or legal advice on the information provided and related topics, please contact the author.