Personal Injury Liability for Assault By a Bar or Nightclub Bouncer

If you are injured by a bouncer or security guard, you may have two options for an injury claim -- an intentional tort claim against the bouncer, and a premises liability claim against the business.

Nightclub employees and the nightclub itself may be liable for personal injuries sustained by patrons on the premises. In situations where security personnel or other nightclub employees become overly aggressive, there may be a valid claim for assault. In this case too, the injured person can sue the employee and the nightclub.

In many situations, bar employees will not have the money to compensate an injured bar patron. Therefore, by suing the employee and the nightclub, the injured patron is more likely to receive adequate compensation for his or her injuries. Read on to learn more.

Premises Liability and Claims Against Bars and Nightclubs

A nightclub, similar to other businesses like a hotel or grocery store, can be held legally responsible for injuries occurring on the business's property. Under the theory of "premises liability," a nightclub may be liable for guest injuries on the property caused by a bar employee's negligence. For example, if a bar patron is injured in a slip and fall on a spilled drink that was not cleaned up within a reasonable time, the customer may be able to may sue the nightclub for negligence.

Proving the Nightclub's Liability

In order for an injured bar patron to win a lawsuit against a nightclub for negligence, he or she must prove that the nightclub breached a duty owed to the bar patron and that breach caused an injury.

Nightclubs have a general duty to exercise reasonable care in maintaining the property and keeping the premises in a reasonably safe condition. Where bar employees or the nightclub itself fail to exercise reasonable care, they are considered to be in breach. A breach is a wrongful act. For example, a nightclub breaches it's duty to bar patrons when a rotted bar stool breaks and injures a bar patron. In that case, the breach is the act of not maintaining safe bar stools.

An important element in any negligence claim is causation. An injured bar patron must prove that the nightclub caused the harm or injury. It must be foreseeable to the nightclub that its actions or failure to act could cause injuries to its guests. Causation can relieve the nightclub of liability in many situations. An intoxicated person may simply fall on the dance floor and suffer a concussion and a broken wrist. The nightclub did not cause this injury and is therefore not liable. There are some injuries that cannot be avoided or prevented with safety measures and precautions.

The last and most easily provable element of a premises liability claim is damages. The term "damages" simply means the injury or harm suffered by the plaintiff in a lawsuit. The person suing the nightclub must prove that he or she was harmed or injured. Where a nightclub is found liable, the injured person may recover damages including medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering and mental anguish.

Assaults by Bar Employees

Bar security personnel, or "bouncers," do not have any special immunity from assault claims. An assault is the intentional act of putting another person in fear of or apprehension of an imminent physical contact or bodily injury. For example, a bouncer may push a bar patron in the chest. The assault occurs when the bar patron sees the bouncer approach and extend his arms to push. The actual physical contact is a battery. Naturally, assault and battery claims are often grouped together, whether as a criminal charge (brought by a government prosecutor) or a civil action (brought in a personal injury lawsuit, by the victim).

In most cases, a bouncer is treated as an ordinary citizen. A bouncer cannot make physical contact with a bar patron in most situations. Where a patron is becoming unruly, the bouncer must first ask that person to leave. If the person refuses, the nightclub should call the police. However, if an intoxicated person attempts to punch or otherwise make physical contact, the bouncer may engage in self-defense. The bouncer may also use physical force when a patron is committing a crime or hurting another patron. Just like any other person, the bouncer may defend and protect other persons from physical attacks.

Negligent Security

A bouncer can be found liable for assault. However, as previously mentioned in this article, the bouncer may not be financially able to compensate the injured person. In those cases, the injured person may sue the nightclub for negligent security or negligent hiring. While the nightclub is generally not liable for the actual assault by a bouncer, an injured person may have a valid claim based on negligence. For example, the actual victim may claim that the nightclub was negligent for not conducting a criminal background check of its employees. Liability may also be found where a nightclub did not employ enough security personnel under the circumstances, and some form of preventable harm occurred.

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