May 15th, 2013

Bar Fights and Intoxication – Is the Bar Liable?

It’s a scene out of a movie -a man enters bar, drinks excessively, and then gets into a fight with another person inside the bar. The bartender looks on. This happens quite often in real life and for the person on the receiving end of a punch from a drunk person, things can get ugly and fast.

A shove or punch can escalate into getting slashed with a broken beer bottle and a hospital visit. In extreme cases, people die from bar fights. One punch and someone can lose their balance, hit their head on concrete and die from the resulting head trauma. It does sound like something out of a movie, but sadly, it happens.

Under the laws of Pennsylvania and New Jersey, any establishment which serves alcohol is not allowed to serve someone who is visibly intoxicated. This applies to:

  • bars,
  • restaurants,
  • clubs,
  • music festivals/venues, and
  • anywhere alcohol is served.

Related: New Jersey Bar Liability for Serving Too Much Alcohol

When is Someone “Visibly Intoxicated”?

It sounds like an obvious question, but both Pennsylvania and New Jersey law requires proof of visible intoxication, more than mere testimony that the person looked drunk, i.e., characteristics like swaying, slurring, smelling like alcohol, etc. In addition, proving that the individual who started the fight was in fact visibly intoxicated can be difficult. The problem in these so-called “dram shop” liability cases is that people who are in bars have usually been drinking too, so memories are often fuzzy. Therefore, getting testimony from waitstaff and other bartenders can be very helpful and is important. However, bars, restaurants and clubs tend to have high turnover in terms of staff retention, so investigation must be conducted as early as possible

Bar Liability for Negligence Leading to a Bar Fight

In addition to liability for serving someone who was visibly intoxicated, bars, clubs and restaurants may liable for other kinds of negligent acts.  For example, a bar may be liable for failing to provide adequate security in the face of known security issues or violating maximum capacity requirements resulting in an accident or injury to a customer.

The key in any bar fight case is to conduct an investigation as early as possible. Tracking down witnesses and investigation of the bar are crucial in succeeding in a bar fight liability case.

Related content:

New Jersey & Pennsylvania Bar/Restaurant Alcohol Liability Lawyers

To submit your case for review by our bar and restaurant alcohol liability and accident lawyers, call Click To Call.

Our lawyers are available for a free, no obligation legal consultation, and can obtain special admission in other states, such as New York or Delaware, on a case by case basis.

**This website does not provide legal advice. Every case is unique and it is crucial to get a qualified, expert legal opinion prior to making any decisions about your case. See the full disclaimer at the bottom of this page.