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July 15th, 2013

Bar/Restaurant Fights – Is a Bar Liable for Fights Outside of the Property?

Generally in Pennsylvania, stores such as grocery stores, shopping malls, retail stores, etc., do not have duties with respect to persons outside of the premises, or bystanders. However, in some cases, stores and businesses can be held liable when negligence increases the risk of harm to bystanders. This type of liability is common in lawsuits against bars, restaurants and clubs.

Bars, restaurants and other establishments which serve alcohol can be held liable for events which occur outside the premises. The following are two hypothetical situations which demonstrate such liability.

1. A restaurant serves alcohol to an individual who injures someone in a fight while outside the restaurant, such as in the parking lot.

In this situation, for liability to attach, the fight must be foreseeable. The mere act of serving alcohol to the individual is probably not, in and of itself, sufficient for liability to attach. There must be some evidence to show that restaurant employees/bartender should have reasonably anticipated that the drunk patron would attack someone. Sufficient evidence would be knowledge that the particular individual was previously aggressive (i.e., attacked another restaurant patron) or the patron’s violent statements immediately prior to leaving the restaurant.

2. Security employees kick out an aggressive patron who then gets into a fight with a bystander.

Like the first example, there must be some evidence of foreseeability – the bar knew or should have known that patron would get into a fight. As with the first example, evidence that the bar had knowledge of prior aggressive behavior would suffice. In addition, if the security employees increased the risk of harm, the bar could be held liable. A recent federal court opinion in Pennsylvania underscores this point. See D’Allessandro v. Cavanaugh’s River Deck (where security employees got into a near physical altercation with a group of patrons and later ejected them, the court held that the bar could be found liable where one of the men ejected assaulted an individual outside the bar). Click here for a discussion of that case.

In bar and restaurant fight cases, it is crucial to conduct the investigation early on. Eyewitnesses are usually very important in laying the foundation for a solid case against the bar or restaurant. Those who are injured in bar fights may be entitled to receive financial compensation for the injuries.

Related content:

Pennsylvania Bar/Restaurant Liability Lawyers

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