Bars and restaurants have a special legal responsibility to establish safety precautions against violent crime. Establishments that fail to protect customers or employees can be held accountable for their negligence in court.
Did you or a loved one suffer severe injuries due to a crime in a restaurant or bar? Our experienced negligent security attorneys want to help. Learn more about your rights in a free legal consultation today.
Were you or a loved one injured during the commission of a crime at a restaurant or bar?
Most survivors of crime understand that the criminal justice system grants them a number of select rights, including the right to claim financial compensation through a state-established trust fund. Far less well-known, though, are the rights granted to victims and their loved ones by the United States civil justice system.
If a restaurant serves alcohol and then chooses to serve alcohol to a visibly intoxicated individual who intends to drive, resulting in that individual causing harm to another person due to impaired driving, the restaurant could potentially face a "drunk driving injury lawsuit" on behalf of the injured victim.
In the event that a restaurant experiences a crime problem on its premises, and the property owner is aware of the facility's susceptibility to criminal activities but fails to provide adequate security for its patrons and individuals with a legitimate reason to be on the property, the restaurant could be held responsible for any incidents involving shootings, mass shootings, or stabbings that occur within or on its premises.
The vast majority of our clients are surprised to learn that they may be eligible to file a civil lawsuit against both criminal offenders and third-party establishments. Every property owner in the country has a basic duty to offer employees and guests an adequate degree of protection against potential criminals. And property owners who fail to do so can be held liable for the injuries caused by criminals due to their negligence.
Restaurant and bar owners can be held accountable for allowing crime to occur on their property. Like all property owners in the country, restaurants and bars have a legal obligation to provide customers, employees, and other lawful visitors with a reasonable level of security against crime, especially violent crimes like assault and battery, sexual assault, rape, and murder.
Of course, restaurant and bar owners aren't obligated to prevent every crime that could, in principle, occur on their premises. Criminal offenders, in the final analysis, are responsible for their harmful actions. But we can hold property owners responsible for failing to implement or maintain the adequate security precautions that are often our only hope of deterring criminals.
Negligent security lawsuits become possible when a bar or restaurant's careless disregard for public safety leads to serious injuries. So, how much security is enough? That depends.
Every restaurant or bar's security requirements will be different. Establishments in high-crime neighborhoods, by and large, will need to put more stringent protections in place. Restaurants or bars outside of areas with lots of crime will probably be fine with a lower level of security.
A history of similar crimes, in particular, is a "tip-off" to business owners that better security is probably necessary. So, a restaurant that experienced several sexual assaults in the last few months may have a special duty to prevent further sexual assaults.
The point of all these questions is to determine whether or not the crime at issue in the lawsuit was "foreseeable" to the restaurant or bar's ownership. In general, courts have held that property owners can only be held liable for third-party crimes that they should have seen coming.
Restaurants also need to keep tabs on their own patrons. This is particularly the case for restaurants with alcohol licenses and for bars since alcohol, as the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism notes, is a well-known intensifier of aggressive behavior.
The sale of alcohol on a property is likely to increase the risk of violent and criminal behavior. The link between alcohol and violence is surprisingly clear. A number of prominent studies have found a strong correlation between drinking and the commission of violent crime.
In a 1997 report for Recent Developments in Alcoholism, epidemiologists in England cited research suggesting that up to 86% of homicide offenders were drinking at the time of their crimes. The proportions were similarly high for sexual offenders and people convicted of violent assault, 60% and 37% of whom, respectively, had consumed alcohol directly prior to or during their offenses.
The presence of alcohol "facilitates violence," says Kai Pernanen, an influential Swedish researcher who died in 2011. Pernanen's book, Alcohol in Human Violence, detailed the results of a community study on alcohol-related violence. A full 42% of violent crimes reported to law enforcement during the study involved alcohol. And most judges will presume, regardless of other circumstances, that bars and restaurants that serve alcohol should have specific policies in place to reduce this risk.
No one is asking for prohibition, but a rule against excessive alcohol service and training for bartenders and servers is a good idea if not a legal necessity.
Video surveillance systems are an essential tool in the fight against crime. Visible security cameras can act as a deterrent since potential offenders will know that their actions are being watched. And since security camera systems have become incredibly cheap and easy to access, no restaurant or bar, especially those in high-crime areas, should go without at least a few cameras.
Restaurant and bar owners should also be vigilant about what's going on inside their establishments. It's perfectly reasonable to expect a restaurant or bar to perform accurate background checks before hiring employees. Failing to do so and subsequently hiring someone with a history of violent felony convictions would likely open an establishment to legal liability.
Most violent crimes don't actually happen inside a business but outside in the parking lot. That stands to reason. If you wanted to commit a violent act, you wouldn't do it inside, where other customers or the business' employees could catch you. You'd wait until your victim was outside, alone in the parking lot and preoccupied with finding their car keys. As a result, parking lots should be illuminated at night by bright lights and, in most cases, overseen by security cameras.
During high-traffic hours, it's probably a good idea for restaurants and bars to contract with a parking company, both to handle vehicles and watch over the lot. At the least, an employee stationed near the establishment's entrance can use a clear line of sight into the lot to watch for signs of trouble. Security guards, either trained private contractors or off-duty police officers, are another sure-fire deterrent against criminal offenders.
Think you have a case? Our experienced premises liability attorneys are here to help. Contact our lawyers today for a free consultation. Time may be limited. Negligent security lawsuits are governed by strict deadlines set by numerous state laws known as statutes of limitation.
Attempt to file your case after the statute of limitations has run out, and your lawsuit will almost certainly be thrown out of court, regardless of the facts. Call or fill out our contact form now to learn more about your legal options - at no charge and no obligation.