A recent bar fight at a nightclub in Destin, Florida, has brought to light the issue of what happens when a violent attack occurs in a bar or nightclub, and who is liable when someone is injured during one of these incidents.

The fight occurred in the early morning hours on Sunday, June 26. According to the Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office, officers discovered multiple individuals’ unconscious in the parking lot and one patron stabbed in the back.

Suing the Responsible Party

The most obvious choice for who is responsible for injuries sustained in a bar fight is the person who caused the injury. A legal cause of action hinges on the circumstances of how the injury occurred.  If it was intentional, the injured party could sue through an intentional tort civil action. If the injury was accidental, such as the person was fighting someone else when the injury occurred to an uninvolved party, this innocent injured party could sue through negligence. However, many times, it makes more sense to pursue a legal action against the entity who has the money or insurance policy to pay in a civil legal action, namely the bar or nightclub where the fight occurred.

Suing the Bar or Nightclub

An injured party can hold the bar or nightclub where the fight occurred civilly liable for his or her injuries. Normally this is done through a negligence action, which means that the injured party must show that:

  1. The bar or nightclub had a duty of care to keep all patrons reasonable safe from foreseeable harm.
  2. They failed to meet that legal duty of car.
  3. Their failure to meet this duty of care caused the person’s injury. 

If the injured party can show that the bar or nightclub failed to protect him or her from foreseeable harm, he or she may have a successful claim for damages through a negligence action. However, the injured party may not be able to succeed with a negligence action if he or she is found to have voluntarily participated in the fight.

Premises Liability

Damages can also be sought in a premises liability case if it is found that the establishment failed to provide reasonable and necessary security for its patrons. What is found to be “reasonable” ultimately depends on the circumstances. If a bar or nightclub regularly has incidents where fights break out, the establishment should take measures to protect patrons from serious injury in the event another fight occurs, whether this means ensuring that adequate security is placed throughout the club or bar or properly securing all tables, chairs, and other furniture to the floor. If a certain patron is known to cause issues at the bar or club, it may be best if the establishment prohibits him or her from returning. 

Florida’s Dram Shop Law

Another option for injured bar patrons falls under the state’s dram shop laws. When a bar patron becomes intoxicated and attacks another patron at the bar or even the street in front of the bar, the injured patron may have a civil cause of action against the place that served the intoxicated aggressor alcohol. Florida bars have a duty to ensure that they are not serving their patrons alcohol when they are already intoxicated. If the bar is determined to have overserved the patron alcohol, and that individual causes injury to another person, the injured party can seek damages from the bar who overserved the patron. Normally dram shop laws come into play with DUI injuries or underage drinking, but it can also apply for bar fight situations, as well.

If you have been injured in a bar fight in Florida, you should first obtain proper medical attention for your injuries. Then, you should contact an experienced personal injury attorney. Spencer Aronfeld is a Board Certified Trial Lawyer, and he and the lawyers at Aronfeld Trial Lawyers understand Florida’s complex personal injury laws and since 1991. We have fought hard to protect the legal rights of the injured and their families.  The Miami-based law firm of Aronfeld Trial Lawyers will work diligently to resolve your personal injury claim and obtain you the compensation you deserve. Our law firm accepts personal injury cases in Florida on a contingency fee basis. This means if there is no recovery, there is no cost to you.

Related Resources:

Is a Bar Liable for Fight Injuries? | AllLaw

Liability in a Bar Fight – FindLaw

The “massive” Florida bar brawl ends with multiple knockouts, police say. – Trend News – Securykid

Large-scale bar brawl reported in Destin, Florida, cops say | Raleigh News & Observer (newsobserver.com)

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