Kelley Uustal Trial Attorney
May 13, 2020

Negligent Security – “My friend was killed inside of a bar; is the bar owner responsible?”

Josiah Graham, Attorney, Kelley | Uustal

As a teenager, I frequented a popular urban nightclub named “Trends.” Though it sounds silly to admit now, every time I went there, I feared that I could be stabbed or shot inside that club. It had a violent reputation.

I saw numerous fights break-out in that club, and many other clubs and bars around South Florida. It was the norm.

I witnessed shoot-outs in parking lots, people getting stabbed, and countless people getting assaulted by groups of others.  

When I began my studies at the University of Central Florida, I recall a prominent Orlando DJ being stabbed to death in an Orlando nightclub.

And though these assaults were tragic, I found solace in knowing that the criminals would be held criminally responsible for their crimes.

But it wasn’t until I started working on Negligent Security lawsuits that I learned that our civil-justice-system gives family members another recourse to take action, independent of our criminal-justice-system. I also learned that most of these senseless acts of violence were preventable.

In Florida, bar owners have the same responsibilities as do apartment owners: to keep their occupants safe from criminal assaults. Now, I am not going to suggest to you that a bar owner is responsible for every single crime that ever occurs on their property.

But what I am saying is that bar owners, like apartment owners, have a duty to take reasonable precautions to prevent future criminal assaults from occurring on their property.

And what’s reasonable is relative.

For example, if a bar that contains no metal detectors on its property has a history of stabbings occurring inside the bar, its obviously unreasonable for that bar owner to not install metal detectors moving forward. And if someone is later stabbed inside of that bar, the victim’s family has a every right to bring a Negligent Security lawsuit on his or her behalf.

Likewise, if a club has a history of violent fights breaking out in its unpatrolled parking lot, its unreasonable for the owner to not hire security guards to now patrol its lot. If someone later experiences a brutal assault in that parking lot, they, too, have a claim against the club owner.

To prevail in court on a Negligent Security claim, it mostly comes down to two things: 1) did the bar owner take reasonable measures to prevent crime from occurring? And, 2) was the crime that occurred the type of crime that was foreseeable?

The more crime that occurs on a property, the more foreseeable it is for future crime to occur. So, it is theoretically easier to prevail against those bars and nightclubs that experience more violence, than against a bar that has experienced no crime in the past. If you or a family member have been seriously injured by criminal violence occurring inside a club or its parking lot, you should contact a lawyer with experience handling Negligent Security lawsuits.

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