Nightclubs have a clear legal duty to offer patrons and employees an adequate degree of security against crime. Establishments that fail to uphold this obligation can be held accountable for their negligence in a premises liability lawsuit.
Did you or a loved one suffer crime-related injuries at a nightclub? Our experienced premises liability attorneys can help. To learn more about your legal options, contact us today for a free consultation.
Survivors of crime often express dissatisfaction, if not outrage, after participating in the criminal justice system. Surprisingly, the situation now is actually better than it used to be.
If a nightclub serves alcohol and decides to continue serving alcohol to a visibly intoxicated individual who intends to drive, resulting in that individual causing harm to someone while driving under the influence, the nightclub could potentially face a "drunk driving accident lawsuit" on behalf of the injured victim.
Too often, nightclub owners and management fail to implement adequate security measures, creating an environment where criminal activities can thrive. This negligence can lead to incidents of assault, shootings, stabbings, or mass shootings, leaving innocent individuals vulnerable. It is essential for nightclubs to prioritize the safety of their patrons by employing trained security personnel, installing surveillance cameras, and enforcing strict entry and exit protocols. Neglecting these measures not only endangers the patrons but also tarnishes the reputation of the establishment, highlighting the urgent need for improved security practices in nightlife venues.
In the past, victims of crime were treated much like human pieces of evidence, used to prove a criminal offender's guilt and then cast aside. But over the last three decades, a wave of public protests and new research on the science of victimization has empowered victims to play a more active role in the conviction and sentencing of offenders.
The victims' rights movement also opened up new avenues for support. Today, every state has a crime victims' compensation program, a trust fund designed to pay out financial compensation to cover the direct effects of violent crime. And, when offenders are convicted of a crime, the court system is now encouraged to include financial restitution, paid directly to victims, as an aspect of sentencing.
While encouraging, these reforms in the criminal justice system haven't gone far enough. Compensation amounts are kept to strict limits and tied directly to financial expenses that can be proven through bills and receipts. No consideration is made for the experience of physical pain or ongoing emotional trauma. Restitution, on the other hand, can only be secured if the offender is actually convicted, which is surprisingly rare.
Many victims, however, may have another option, although it's one that receives far less attention. Survivors of crime, along with their families, often have a separate set of rights within the civil justice system. In brief, you may have the right to file a civil lawsuit for full compensation against the crime's perpetrator and/or a negligent third-party property owner.
Under various state laws, every property owner in the United States has a basic obligation to provide customers, employees, and lawful guests with a reasonable amount of security.
This duty covers both residential and commercial properties, including nightclubs and bars. Establishments that fail to offer adequate security can be held responsible when violent crimes on the property lead to severe personal injuries or, in the case of homicide, the tragic death of an innocent patron.
Negligence in these cases can go any number of ways. Some victims sustain severe injuries because a nightclub or bar failed to establish adequate security precautions, allowing a violent offender to carry out criminal acts without resistance. A nightclub in a high-crime area, for example, that failed to provide customers with adequate illumination in the parking lot could possibly be held accountable for an assault in the lot.
Other crime survivors are hurt when an established security measure breaks down, as in the many cases when a crime was allowed to occur because a security guard didn't show up as scheduled and the nightclub failed to take the time to find a replacement.
In other cases, though, a security measure actually goes too far. We've heard from several people who were severely injured when a nightclub's security personnel proved overzealous and ultimately beat up an innocent patron.
All of these examples include some element of negligence. At some point, the nightclub's ownership failed to protect customers (or its own employees) as a more reasonable owner would have. That's when a negligent security lawsuit becomes possible.
As we've seen, property owners across the nation owe lawful guests and employees a fundamental duty to offer basic security measures. Don't confuse this responsibility with a duty to prevent crime in all cases.
Nightclub owners can't be held accountable for every criminal act that occurs on their property. Rather, property owners can be held accountable for working less than they should to prevent or deter crime. Visible security cameras and well-lit parking lots can't just stop crimes from happening. Every criminal offender makes the ultimate decision to commit a violent act. And they can make that decision in the presence of visible security cameras, or in well-lit parking lots, or right in front of armed security personnel.
What these security measures do, in the final analysis, is make crimes less likely to occur. As a society, we want to encourage nightclubs, bars, and all other properties to put these security precautions in place. One way to encourage them is to make them legally liable for their failures to provide adequate security.
Every nightclub is different. Some nightclubs are located in high-crime neighborhoods. Other nightclubs are parked off of rural highways. And their legal duties will change to take these differences into account. A nightclub in a high-crime area, for example, will usually need more effective security measures than one located in a low-crime neighborhood.
Likewise, a nightclub with its own history of violent crime will probably require better precautions and, in particular, specific measures to prevent the type of crime that has been prevalent there.
One thing nearly every nightclub does, however, is serve alcohol. Drinking increases the likelihood of violent behavior. The National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence says that alcohol and other drugs contribute to around 80% of all criminal offenses that lead to incarceration in the United States. "Alcohol is a factor in 40% of all violent crimes," the Council continues.
This is a huge societal problem, but nightclubs and bars play a special role in both exacerbating and minimizing the issue. Some nightclubs train servers to watch for signs of intoxication and cut patrons off when they've had too much. Other nightclubs actually encourage excessive drinking since it ultimately equals higher revenues. It should be clear which of these two options is the negligent one.
Nightclubs that fail to monitor their patrons for excessive alcohol consumption can be held accountable if those patrons go on to commit violent acts.
Were you or a loved one affected by an assault, rape, robbery, or shooting at a nightclub? Our experienced negligent security lawsuits are here to help. You may have a claim for financial compensation against the nightclub, but you won't know until you explore your legal options. To learn more, contact our attorneys today for a free consultation.