LIABILITY OF RESTAURANTS AND BARS

by Mike Myers on May 21, 2015

This weekend there was a big shootout in Waco, Texas between rival motorcycle clubs at a restaurant.  Police place part of the blame on the restaurant owners

Police said the business could have done more to prevent the violence.

Waco Police Sgt. W. Patrick Swanton told the Waco Tribune, “Management knew that there were issues, and we were here, but they continued to let those groups of people into their business.”

“Apparently the management wanted them here, so we didn’t have any say so on whether they could be here or not,” Swanton said.

Washington courts hold bars and restaurants to a pretty high standard when it comes to patron safety (even if the threat is criminal action as opposed to a slip and fall hazard).

“[A] business owes a duty to its invitees to protect them from imminent criminal harm and reasonably foreseeable criminal conduct by third persons.”  The business owner generally owes no duty to exercise reasonable care unless he or she “ ‘knows or has reason to know that the acts of the third person are occurring, or are about to occur.’”

However, “[i]f the place or character of [the] business, or … past experience, is such that [the business owner] should reasonably anticipate careless or criminal conduct on the part of third persons, either generally or at some particular time, he [or she] may be under a duty to take precautions against it, and to provide a reasonably sufficient number of servants to afford a reasonable protection.”

Where such a duty exists, “[t]he business owner must take reasonable steps to prevent such harm in order to satisfy the duty.”

We handled a similar case against a bar in Renton.  One customer–known to make threats and carry knives–stabbed our client.  Our client bounced back from the injury, but no body likes to be stabbed.  We sued the bar and its insurance company paid a six-figure settlement.

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