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Can Business Owners Be Held Liable for the Conduct of Their Patrons?

As a business owner, you have a duty to preserve the safety of your customers and patrons. This includes cleaning up any messes that can cause an injury and either properly indicating or repairing any hazards that could cause either an employee or a visitor to get hurt. However, even though you go to great lengths to adhere to this duty, there are times where unruly or disorderly patrons can let their conduct get out of hand and cause injury to themselves. Surely, there’s nothing you can do about this, so you must be off the hook, right?

Well, not necessarily. Unruly patrons who cause injuries to themselves or to other patrons may still be your responsibility, which means you have even more to worry about. To help you better understand, here is a brief overview of our state’s laws regarding business owner liability.

Dram Shop Laws

Under Florida law, establishments that “knowingly” provide alcohol to a person who is “habitually addicted” to alcohol can be held liable in the event that the addicted individual causes an injury to someone else with their conduct. This places the onus on business owners to know who their customers are, know if they have a problem, and stop serving them if they suspect that they may cause injury to someone else.

Let’s look at an example. If a regular patron at a bar is well-known to the entire staff to have a drinking problem, and yet the bar continues to serve them anyway, the bar could hold a share of liability should that patron then cause an injury to someone. Let’s say that patron comes in one night, has a few drinks, leaves, and then hits a pedestrian with their car a few blocks away. The pedestrian could then sue both the patron for their actions and the bar itself for knowingly serving someone with an alcohol problem, knowing that they would likely attempt to drive afterward. Proving this is tricky, but it could be possible if the pedestrian they hit was also a regular at the bar who made the responsible choice to walk home instead of trying to drive.

Disorderly Conduct Injuries

Nightclubs, bars, breweries, and other social places may be a great place to enjoy your night out, but they are also unfortunately an area where emotions can run high, and with less inhibition due to liberally-flowing alcohol. As a result, they’re usually the most common locations for fistfights. Whether it’s two people who simply can’t stand the sight of one another, or a situation of minor tension boils over, it’s not unheard of for people to lose their cool and come to blows.

As a business owner, you likely don’t know that these individuals are at your establishment, and there isn’t much you can do to prevent one of the incidents from happening without warning. However, even then you can still be held liable for the conduct of these patrons, including for a share of their injuries. As a business owner, you are required to provide a safe premises that’s free from a risk of undue harm or injury. An unruly patron is considered one of these risks, and as with premises liability law, they need to be removed as quickly as possible once the threat becomes apparent.

This is why you frequently see large teams of security guards at establishments like this. These guards are constantly monitoring the customers who are on the premises at all times to make sure they aren’t getting out of hand and harassing other customers, looking for trouble, or acting in a way that might jeopardize the safety of others. As soon as a customer starts showing these signs, most of these establishments will simply throw them out without a second thought. The risk of having someone who’s already made themselves known as an injury risk remain on the premises is tremendous and most business owners want no part of that added liability.

So to put it simple: bar or club owners are partially responsible for your injuries if you’re hurt in a fistfight or brawl that starts in their establishment.

If you have been injured while on another’s premises, call Lauri J. Goldstein & Associates, PLLC today at 866-675-4427 and receive afree case evaluation from one of our skilled Stuart personal injury attorneys!