Inadequate security decision by Georgia appeals court upholds jury verdict against bar

In Georgia, a bar can sometimes be held liable for injuries suffered by bystanders when a fight breaks out.

In Mulligan’s Bar & Grill v. Stanfield, the Court of Appeals affirmed a jury verdict in favor of Bruce Stanfield who filed suit against Mulligan’s Bar & Grill and the owner of the bar after being injured on the premises. A fight between two other patrons of the bar ended with Mr. Stanfield receiving severe facial injuries due to a beer bottle striking his face. The brawling patrons had given the staff at Mulligan’s trouble before the fight, and employees were aware that the fight between the two men had been brewing for hours. One employee stated that the men had been removed from the bar on several different occasions. Other employees believed that a fight would eventually break out between the two patrons on the night Mr. Stanfield’s injuries occurred. The owner even admitted that one of the patron’s should not have been there since he had been banned.

Other patrons could not understand why the bar did not resolve the problem before the fight, since they had seen the two men fight at Mulligan’s on prior occasions. In addition, evidence showed that the bar’s security officer had told the owner that security was inadequate.

As a result of the fight, Mr. Stanfield received two surgeries and other medical treatment that amounted to approximately $40,000. A jury sided with Mr. Stanfield and found Mulligan’s liable in the amount of $192,100 for knowingly providing an inadequately secured premises. The bar’s owner argued that Mr. Stanfield’s suit was barred by the Georgia Dram Shop Act which concerns a bar’s liability for serving alcohol. However, the court ruled that this case was about premises liability and not liquor liability, since even a bar has a duty to exercise ordinary care in keeping its premises safe.

To be found liable, Georgia law required that a prior incident be sufficient enough to attract the owner’s attention to the dangerous condition that resulted in Mr. Stanfield’s injuries. The court found that there was ample evidence to find that Mr. Stanfield’s injuries were foreseeable due to the prior behavior of the brawling patrons.

Bars are like any other business – they have a duty of reasonable care and adequate security. Our firm represents crime victims and people injured as a result of dangerous conditions and inadequate security. We hope this case will re-affirm the long-standing Georgia rule that holds businesses liable for failing to insure the security of their patrons.

Of course, it’s always a good idea to avoid bar fights, and the bars where they occur.

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