Liability of Business Owners for Violent Bar Fights and Attacks


June 24, 2011

Barroom brawls are romanticized in movies as good old boys blowing off steam, but the reality frequently is far more tragic. Places like bars and taverns are often notorious as places where trouble can occur and violence is common.

Anytime you mix alcohol into a volatile situation; there is a chance it can turn ugly. In a case in Washington, a man was stabbed to death outside of a pub at 1 AM in the morning. The man was an off-duty employee and was trying to break up a fight that had started outside. He got stabbed in the chest, and his lung and aorta were punctured.

The issue that arises in such situations is whether the bar should be held liable for negligent security under premises liability law? If the bar had some security personnel on duty, they could have been breaking up the fight or they could have assisted the man who felt the need to attempt to intervene and keep the peace. Places like bars, restaurants, really any business establishment, owe their patrons a duty to guard against known dangerous conditions. Some courts have found landowners liable for failing to provide reasonable levels of security to protect their patrons from the criminal conduct of third parties.

If you have been the victim of a violent attack because of negligent security at a bar or tavern in Atlanta or anywhere in Georgia, you may be entitled to compensation for your injuries or loss. The Atlanta based law firm of Montlick and Associates, Attorneys at Law, represents people throughout Georgia who are injured or suffer wrongful death as victims of violent attacks because business owners negligently or intentionally fail to provide adequate security measures to protect them.

Tragically, many acts of violence are preventable if the owner of a bar or other business simply provides prudent security measures to protect their patrons and visitors from foreseeable harm. When a property owner fails to take proper security measures, their patrons can suffer from stolen property, assaults, robberies, or worse. Georgia premises liability law permits a business owner to be held liable for certain crimes that occur on their property where the type of criminal activity is foreseeable and the business/property owner fails to implement adequate security measures.

Negligent security may, depending on the circumstances, include any of the following:

  • Complete lack of security
  • Inadequate security measures
  • Lack of video cameras
  • Failing to comply with security laws
  • Employing insufficient security given the risk
  • Failing to protect against known or foreseeable harm

Negligent Hiring

Businesses need to be careful whom they hire for their security detail. If they hire unqualified or incompetent people who cause harm to their patrons, then the business owner can also be held liable for hiring unqualified personnel.

There was a case in Gainesville, where a patron of a bar suffered a serious brain injury when bouncers wrongfully attacked him when responding to an innocent scuffle between other patrons. The bouncers beat the man up and then brought him to the top of some stairs and threw him down to the concrete street below. The customer's head struck the ground causing severe head injuries.

The bar and its employees and its insurance company tried to claim that it was self-defense and blame the accident on the patron. The plaintiff's attorneys proved that these bouncers had a long history of violence against customers, which the bar had failed to do anything about. The patron was awarded $800,000.

Negligent Security

In a recently tried case, a Denny's restaurant in Washington just south of Seattle was the scene of a shooting where patrons were severely injured, and tragically one victim became a quadriplegic. The restaurant was sued for failing to provide protection for its customers and employees against foreseeable, predictable, and regularly occurring violence during their late night shift.

On Friday and Saturday nights there was a regular crowd of nearby bar patrons that would show up in the restaurant for a late meal. The employees of the restaurant testified at trial that these weekend late night shifts actually were scary to work and that there were always problems. The manager of the restaurant had actually noted several times in a logbook the need for security guards at the restaurant, but management at the corporate level ignored his requests.

Around 2 AM on that weekend, a drunk man from the bar next door came into the restaurant and started insulting customers and throwing dishes around. He then fought with someone, and said, "I'm going to smoke someone." He then went out to his car and came back into the restaurant brandishing a Glock .45. The man shot 11 rounds into the restaurant. A 28-year-old man was hit twice and the bullets tore through his liver, crushed his shoulder and severed his spinal cord making him a C-6 quadriplegic. The case went to court and the jury reached a verdict of a total of $46.4 million in damages. With the help of a team of good attorneys, victims can often find justice when they are victims of violent crimes.

If you or someone you love suffers injuries resulting from a violent crime in a bar, tavern or other business in Georgia, you should call Montlick & Associates today to see how we can help. Our Georgia negligent security premises liability attorneys are available to assist clients throughout all of Georgia, including but not limited to Albany, Athens, Atlanta, Augusta, Columbus, Dalton, Gainesville, Macon, Marietta, Rome, Rowel, Savannah, Myrna, Veldts, Warner Robins and all smaller cities and rural areas in the state. Call us today for your free consultation at 1-800-LAW-NEED (1-800-529-6333), or visit us on the web at www.montlick.com. No matter where you are in Georgia, we are just a phone call away and we will even come to you.

Category: Personal Injury

Please Note:
Many of our blog articles discuss the law. All information provided about the law is very general in nature and should not be relied upon as legal advice. Every situation is different, and should be analyzed by a lawyer who can provide individualized advice based on the facts involved in your unique situation, and a consideration of all of the nuances of the statutes and case law that apply at the time.