Can A Bar or Club Owner Be Liable for Injuries?

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As the spring approaches, local bars and nightclubs, especially in the New York City area, are flooded with tourists and many college students on vacation.  Consequentially, these places of business are overcrowded and filled with patrons under the influence. The combination often leads to fights. But is that the owners fault?

The opinion of New York residents is split; some say that it is not the owner’s fault that these kids get drunk and get into altercations, while other residents say the owner is to blame. But what does the law say?

Courts are constantly setting new precedents in light of liability lawsuits involving storefronts, malls, and night time hotspots, but the short answer to whether an altercation is the owner’s fault is yes…in certain cases.

No matter the injuries, it is up to the injured party to prove that the owner knew or should have known about the problem and did too little or nothing to solve it. Even a "general awareness" of a potentially hazardous situation may be enough to make a property owner liable for nightclub injuries in New York.

During a 2011 court case (in which a woman sued Kohl's Department Store after tripping on a purse) the appellate court held that because employees knew the area in question (around a price checker) had been a dumping ground for unwanted merchandise in the past, the store had a responsibility to police the area more thoroughly in order to prevent such injuries.

Consequentially, it is imperative for business owners to take precaution and keep a careful watch. Altercations are too common in New York nightclubs and bars. If an individual is injured during one of these altercations, whether they participated in the brawl or not, they could potentially sue the negligent establishment and win.

Nightclub and bar owners have a responsibility to "adequately secure" the premises in order to ensure their patrons' safety. Measures like screening for guns at the door and hiring an adequate number of bouncers are essential. However, if a nightclub fails (in the eyes of the law and a jury) to adequately secure the premises, they could potentially be held responsible for any injuries suffered.

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