Bar may be liable for injuries of patron assaulted in parking lot

Under "premises liability" law, a business may be liable for your injuries if, for example, a supermarket fails to clean up a dangerous spill, causing you to fall. However, the concept of premises liability may extend to many other situations.

In the Iowa Supreme Court case of Hoyt v. Gutterz Bowl & Lounge, it even potentially included a fight in a parking lot.

An assault in a bar's parking lot

After work, the victim and several colleagues from his construction crew went to a bowling alley and tavern in Guthrie Center, Iowa. The victim saw another man there who had allegedly mistreated his sister and a verbal confrontation ensued. The owner of the bar, who had been in the kitchen, came out to observe the situation after a waitress told him about it. The owner requested that the victim leave.

Later, as the victim traveled through the parking lot, he was struck from behind on his head, which knocked him unconscious. The victim suffered multiple injuries, including a compound ankle fracture.

The victim sued the bar, alleging the bar was liable for the injuries he suffered when he was attacked in the parking lot. The district court granted a summary judgment to the bar-ending the victim's case before he had even had his full day in court. The victim appealed.

A duty of reasonable care?

The Iowa Supreme Court held that the bar owed its patron a duty of reasonable care, regardless of the cause of the risk. This duty applied to risks that included the patron's conduct, as well as to risks that stem from the conduct of a third party, whether "innocent, negligent or intentional."

The bar's staff had noticed the hostilities growing between the men and that all three had been drinking that afternoon. The situation had escalated to the point that the waitress had sought the owner's permission to stop serving alcohol to the men. In addition, bars are businesses wherein bad conduct caused or aggravated by alcohol is widely expected.

Therefore, the district court erred in concluding that the bar did not breach its duty of reasonable care. Genuine issues of material fact remained, so the victim would have his full day in court to make his negligence claim.

The rights of the injured

If you are injured due to the negligence of a business owner, you may be entitled to compensation for your injuries. Before taking any action, you should consult with an experienced personal injury attorney who is dedicated to watching out for the rights of people injured in serious accidents.