Itis considered the responsibility of bar owners to protect theirpatrons or invitees who are present in the premises. This is based onthe doctrine that the bar owner must be able to anticipate the risklevel that his customers are exposed to. Following this riskassessment, the owner must then go further ahead and implement safetymeasures to ensure the protection of his clients.
Insome cases of bar brawls, establishments have had to takeresponsibility for the damages especially for failing to handle thepandemonium caused by patrons basically due to inadequateintervention when the threat of violence was eminent.
Aswas the case with Del Lago Resort in Lake Conroe, a fight broke outbetween two groups leading to an all out war that led to severeinjury of one of the patrons who sued the establishment fornegligence. In this case, a critical point is shown by the outcome ofthe ruling that owners have to take responsibility when they lettheir customers to partake alcohol in excess or even continue servingclients who make threats or behave in a manner suggesting stirringcommotion.
Basicfacts of the Del Lago Resort Case
Anincident occurred at the Del Lago Resort where two groups – awedding party and fraternity members – engaged in a fight where thePlaintiff Mr. Smith got caught up and in the process he sufferedserious head injuries including skull fracture and brain damage whenhe tried to pull a friend out of the fight who had a heart condition.He therefore sued the Resort based on the fact that the owners of theresort did not prevent the brawl which had every chance of occurringbased on the previous behaviour, talk and threats complemented by theheavy intoxication of the patrons[ CITATION Don10 l 2057 ].
Afterthe hearing, the judges passed a ruling concerning the case and thedefendant Del Lago Resort was found to be 51 percent Liable while thePlaintiff Mr. Smith was found to be 49 percent liable. In otherwords, the complainant Mr. Smith won the case and was compensatedwith $1.5 Million. Six judges assented the ruling basing theirstronghold arguments on the fact that the eruption of the final fighthad all the indications necessary for the management to eject thepatrons from the bar before the occurrence[ CITATION Nig14 l 2057 ].
Themanagement of Del Lago was seen to be negligent by failing toadequately warn the patrons on the possible danger, injury and harmthat would occur if the early phase of the brawl was not taken careof immediately. Secondly, Del Lago did not take the necessary stepsto make this particular condition safe for any of the clients in thebar. This came out even stronger with the evidence that for about 90minutes, there were indications of foul words and threats beingthrown back and forth between the two groups.
Itis at this point that Del Lago would have begun taking safetyprecautions to protect the invitees. However, as witnesses indicated,the groups continued with the issue and service resumed as usualuntil the point when the fight became too much to be handled. Thesecurity officers were called when the physical fight broke out andby the time everything calmed down, the plaintiff had already beenseriously injured. In summary, the assent was based on the event thatinasmuch as Mr Smith exposed himself to a risk, the Del Lago was thereasonable person to avoid the risk, possibly by calling in securityofficers [ CITATION DEL07 l 2057 ].
However,the dissenting judges had a slightly different opinion from the othersix. The reason to this dissent included the viewpoint that Mr. Smithwas present the whole time just as a witness indicated that he knewthere was every chance of a fight ensuing. Therefore he was aware ofthe brewing fight and he did not need a written display sign on thebar but knew from what he was seeing and he could therefore readyhimself to avoid injury. So Mr Smith exposed himself to the risk whenhe could have left the scene and avoided his injuries. In addition tothis, the Del Lago had asserted that it had no report of anyunreasonable or dangerous condition that would need action such asproviding more security and the lack of prior incidences like this.One of the Judges also points out that the Del Lago did not breachthe duty of ordinary care as a matter of Law if the complainant knewof the situations. Also supposing that the defendant was negligent,his negligence not directly cause the complainant’s injuries.Lastly the dissenting judge’s argument was that premises liabilitycases should be foreseen as failure to provide warning or ensuresafety where there are faulty conditions on property whereas Mr.Smith did not identify any conditions that could be deemed physicallyfaulty in the premises [ CITATION DEL07 l 2057 ].
Asa Texas Supreme Court judge I would rule that the plaintiff becompensated. This will be based on the fact that the Del Lago wasaware of the rising tension between the two groups of patrons and forthe period that ensued, safety measures should have been enacted tohandle the current situation rather than taking the assumption thatbecause there has never been a fight previously, one cannot arise.Mr. Smith’s actions to pull a friend from the fight actually cameas a result of failure of the Del Lago to prevent the fight itself.It took some time for the Security officers to arrive and calm thesituation. However short the time was, the officers should have beenconsistently present at the bar as a safety measure to monitor clientsafety.
Cruse, Don. “Texas Supreme Court upholds liability against a bar that did not stop a brewing fight [orders of Apr. 2, 2010].” 2 April 2010. The Supreme Court of Texas Blog. 30 October 2015 <http://www.scotxblog.com/orders/texas-supreme-court-upholds-liability-against-a-bar-that-did-not-stop-a-brewing-fight-orders-of-apr-2-2010/>.
DEL LAGO PARTNERS, INC. AND DEL LAGO PARTNERS, L.P.PETITIONERS, v .BRADLEY SMITH, RESPONDENT. No. 06-1022. Supreme Court of Texas. 6 December 2007.
Nightclub & Bar. “How One Bar Fight Could Cost You $1.5 Million in Damages.” 9 December 2014. Nightclub and Bar. 30 October 2015 <http://www.nightclub.com/operations/insurance/how-one-bar-fight-could-cost-you-1-5-million-damages>.