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Losing Their Cool: Night Club Bouncer Assault

People think of night clubs and bars as gathering places for individuals to meet, let loose and have some fun. Nobody goes to a bar expecting to be hurt. However when individuals congregate to drink and inhibitions are diminished, devastating injuries can result. In addition to the danger from people, the building itself can be a hazard.The most common form of injury is a slip and fall injury where a guest suffers a sprain, broken limb or head trauma. These are usually the result of a defect in the facility itself or a failure of the property owners or management to maintain it. Other forms of injuries may include criminal conduct such assault, battery and rape. In rare cases death can result.One of the main reasons people don’t worry is because the night club or bar usually has hired security guards, otherwise known as bouncers, who are there to protect them. It is their job to make sure no harm comes to any patron while in the establishment. When a situation arises, a bouncer is the liaison between the club owners and the police. As security guards, they are hired to diffuse situations that arise and are expected to be able to manage their emotions when patrons misbehave.

When Bouncers Attack

Sometimes, it is the security that steps out of line. A disturbing series of incidents across the country highlights a serious problem of bouncers blurring the line between crowd control and assault.In May, a man visiting in Muhlenberg Township, Pa. night club sustained serious head injuries after being ejected by a bouncer and hitting his head on the sidewalk. He required emergency surgery and was hospitalized for several days. The bouncer responsible for his injuries was arrested earlier this month and charged with assault and endangerment.In February, police charged a Worcester, Mass. security guard with kidnapping, unarmed robbery, assault and battery after a video of him punching and robbing a patron in a strip club bathroom went viral on the internet. The bouncer believed the man was dealing drugs in the club.In August 2010, a war veteran’s face was fractured when he was beaten by a bouncer outside a Lawton, Kansas night bar. The soldier had just undergone facial reconstructive surgery to repair injuries caused by an improvised explosive device. Lawton police suspected the same bouncer in two other assaults at the same establishment.When a bouncer is responsible for hurting a patron, not only can the bouncer be sued, but so can the night club or bar itself. A club owner could face any of the following negligence claims: premises liability, negligent hiring, negligent security, negligent entrustment, negligent retention, negligent infliction of emotional distress, dram shop and even wrongful death. A basic review of some of the more common claims may be useful.

Premises Liability

When someone is injured in a night club, they typically sue the owner of the nightclub under a legal theory called premises liability. In California, premises liability means that an owner or operator of an establishment may be held responsible for keeping the building in a reasonably safe condition and preventing foreseeable injuries to anyone visiting that business.

The bar owner may even be held liable for the negligent actions of their employees if the employees are working doing the duties of their job when the patron is injured. This means that if a guest notifies security of a spill and the security guard fails to see that it is cleaned up, and another patron is subsequently injured, the owner could be liable under a premises liability negligence claim.

Negligent Security

As the name implies, negligent security is when a bouncer fails to perform some aspect of his or her job and a guest is injured as a result. This is most commonly the claim when a security guard fails to take action to prevent a patron from being injured by another patron. It also can be used when a bouncer attacks a guest.

Dram Shop

Currently 42 states and the District of Columbia have dram shop laws. Dram shop laws hold a bar or night club owner as well as their servers responsible when a guest injures another person after the bar or night club allowed that guest to become visibly intoxicated at their establishment.

Wrongful Death

For anyone the worst case scenario for any night club accident is when someone dies. Generally, wrongful death is a death caused by the negligence or other wrongful act of another. In California, wrongful death actions may be brought by the deceased’s spouse, domestic partner, children, grandchildren, other dependents or personal representative

The damages a person may expect from a wrongful death claim will vary. Generally, a wrongful death award is based on two things. First, the estimated pecuniary loss based on how much someone would have received if the deceased had lived as well as the cost of funeral and burial expenses. The second basis is the immeasurable loss of the decedent’s companionship, affection, moral support, comfort, contribution and assistance maintaining the household. A person may not recover punitive damages in a wrongful death claim. Punitive damages are additional fines designed to punish the offending party for bad behavior and to discourage them from repeating it.

Understand Your Rights

Injuries from an incident at a bar can have lifelong consequences. If you have been injured in a night club or bar or have lost a family member as a result of a nightclub incident, it is important to speak with an experienced local personal injury attorney who can review your options with you.

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