Bar-Related Injury Cases: Are Bars Liable for Your Injuries?

by | Jan 19, 2024

Be careful where you go to drink alcoholic beverages. 

Not all bars provide the same protections and standard operating procedures that protect their patrons and protect the public from their patrons.

Things Bars Should NOT Do To Keep You Safe

  • Overserve their patrons such that they drive intoxicated and pose a threat to themselves and others on the road.
  • Overserve their patrons such that the patron suffers the risk of falling in the bar or outside the bar.
  • Allow patrons known to be on criminal probation or other criminal case release to be in the bar at all, let alone serve them alcoholic beverages.
  • Permit vulgar language inside the bar. It can lead to confrontations and is offensive to other patrons.

Things Bars SHOULD Do To Keep You Safe

  • Provide excellent lighting for their entrances and parking areas.
  • Prevent clutter from obstructing walking areas.
  • Frequently inspect their restrooms for spills and other hazards (at least every 20 minutes.)
  • Put down wet floor signs for spills and tracked in moisture from outside.  They should mop up these items.
  • Intervene in angry disturbances and escort problem makers outside after making sure they are sober enough to leave unattended.
  • Pay attention to men and women who appear to have met up in the bar as opposed to coming in together as a couple. The reason is to pay special attention to note if the woman needs help from getting drugged, drunk, groped, battered, or taken from the bar by the man against her will.

Most Bars Don’t Meet The Standard

The truth is that many (if not most) bars fail to meet all these dos and don’ts. That is why we say to be careful where you go and pay attention to your surroundings.

Any lawyer who has practiced personal injury law for any lengthy period will have many stories of bar liability case inquiries he or she has reviewed. 

Some cases are worth taking, and many more are not. Most of the bar cases not worth taking fall into two main categories: The potential clients put themselves in harm’s way, and/or the harm caused was not the fault of the bar staff.

Garrison Law Firm has reviewed many bar-related injury cases and taken many of those cases for representation. 

Examples from Bar-Related Injury Cases:

A Single-Punch Bar Death

A man went to a restaurant bar midafternoon to order and eat his favorite item on the menu. The time was some before the establishment was to close. 

When he tried to order, he was told that the kitchen had already shut down. This patron got angry with the staff, insisting that the bar signage clearly said they were still open. 

A confrontation ensued that led to the parking lot. At some point, an employee punched the patron in the face, killing him with one punch. 

There were no witnesses to the punch made outside. Because the injury was so severe, we took the case believing that the employee did not need to punch the patron and that the force used was excessive. 

Ultimately, the case went to trial, and the jury returned a defense verdict for the bar. Essentially, the jury did not believe the patron’s estate proved it was more likely than not that the bar could have prevented the death. 

The lack of a witness was crucial to their finding.

A Good Samaritan Loses an Eye in a Bar Altercation 

A man goes to his favorite bar one evening to hang out with some friends. While there, he sees a woman he knows and converses with her. 

The lady’s boyfriend is also in the bar, and when he sees the woman talking to this man (who eventually became our client), he gets hostile with the girlfriend. 

As his drunken anger at her escalated, our client tried to intervene on behalf of the woman to calm things down. That is when the drunk and angry man smashes a beer bottle across our client’s face, lacerating his eye. 

The eye did not survive, and our client had to have it surgically removed and a prosthetic eye installed. 

We sued the drunk man and the bar for over-serving him and for not intervening as the situation escalated. The bar settled the claim at mediation for multiple six figures, and we took a judgment against the man for a six-figure amount. 

The injury value would have been higher except for the comparative fault of our client for intervening, as moral as it was, as he increased his danger by doing so.

Falling in a Bar’s Dark Stairway at Closing Time

A woman goes to her favorite local bar to find friends and hang out for the evening. While there, the bar serves her 6 lite beers. After midnight, the bar decides it’s time to close and locks the front door, allowing those inside to stay longer.  

Eventually, the bar asked the remaining patrons to leave. However, the bartender does not open the front door, which has overhead exterior lighting, but instead insists that our client leave by a side door with no lighting and an uneven stairway, causing our client to fall, resulting in very serious injury.  

These cases always involve some comparative fault that the plaintiff must consider in arriving at a settlement value. 

In this case, we felt our client had little comparative fault because she was directed by the bar staff to this dangerous dark exit, and she was unaware of the condition of the stairway. This case was settled at mediation for a significant amount.

Struck By a Car Outside a Bar

A young man (our client) and his girlfriend go home from work and drink some hard liquor in the mid-afternoon. Afterward, the man decides to go out to a local bar to hang out. 

Because he is intoxicated already, he gets a woman to drive him to the bar and let him off.  

While at the bar, our client is served more alcohol but does not remember how much. 

Between his level of intoxication (very high) and the brain injury he suffered, he has no memory of the amount served him. However, he knows he was served at least one beer, maybe more. 

Our client’s level of intoxication was more than three times the illegal limit of .08 BAC. 

The bar let him leave the bar and the exterior premises on foot without accompaniment, where he entered the roadway next to a crosswalk and was struck by a speeding car, resulting in a traumatic brain injury and other serious injuries.

We viewed this case as having settlement value because of the injuries’ severity and because it could have a prohibitive amount of comparative fault assigned to our client by a jury if the case went to trial. 

This case settled at mediation at a significant value, but a lower amount than the injuries would dictate because of our client’s level of fault. 

The bar paid a settlement amount for allowing our client to endanger himself when he was not competent to realize many dangers. The insurance carrier for the person driving the car refused to pay anything to our client. 

Our client determined that the risk of a defense verdict was too high to continue the case against the driver.

Man’s Bartender Sister Overserves Him, Resulting in Death and Serious Injury

A young man goes to a bar where his sister works as a bartender. While there, he meets up with some friends and drinks to excess, being so served by his sister. 

With a BAC of more than three times the illegal limit, he leaves the bar with three friends, one of whom was to become our client. 

This drunk brother of the bartender drove away from the bar with three passengers. He caused a disastrous car accident, killing himself and the other front seat passenger and severely injuring our client, who was sitting in the back seat, also heavily intoxicated.

The driver’s auto insurance paid its $100,000 policy limits early in litigation without much fight.  

The bar owner had apparently rejected coverage on her liability policy for alcohol-related liabilities. This leaves our client unlikely to recover much, if anything, from the bar.

Ejected From a Vehicle After Underage Man Overserved

A 21-year-old man and his 20-year-old friend, the driver, go to a restaurant bar together and are served over $350 of strong alcoholic beverages. 

Not only were they both overserved, but the bar served an underage driver enough to make him reckless behind the wheel. 

Upon leaving the bar, the driver drove at high speed through heavy traffic near a mall on a holiday day. The driver hit a curb on the driver’s side of the car, causing the car to veer to the right and go off the road, hitting a telephone pole head-on, ejecting the passenger, and killing him instantly.  

The driver went to jail, and the passenger went to the morgue. 

Our firm got the maximum recovery allowed by law for the grieving parents.

5 Children Left Motherless After Date-Rape Drug Overdose Outside a Bar

Two young mothers went to a local bar to attend a birthday party. They frequented two local hangouts over the evening and into the early morning. 

They were being stalked inside one of the bars by a man on pre-trial release for a sex offense.  

This man was also employed by the bar but was not at the bar that night for business purposes. This man was prohibited by the terms of his pre-trial release from entering any establishment serving alcohol.  

Sometime after midnight, this man engages these two young ladies and convinces them to go to his car, where he could pour them another cocktail from the liquor he kept in his trunk.  

At the car, he served them a drink. We will never know for sure what was in those drinks, but both women died that night from a massive overdose of a date rape drug and fentanyl. 

Between these two ladies, five children lost their mom. We wish that we could claim to have recovered large sums of money for these poor children, but there were no witnesses, no police investigation into the man’s possible responsibility, and the man was later convicted and sentenced for his pending sex offense charge.

Many Hazards in Bar-Related Injury Cases

These examples portray some of the hazards injured people face when pursuing a claim against a restaurant bar. This is why we say, “Be careful where you imbibe” and  “Pay attention to your surroundings.”

These cases discussed do not hit all the dos and don’ts listed above, but rest assured, we have reviewed and taken cases involving each line item. 

If you or a loved one has been injured in a bar-related incident, call us at Garrison Law Firm so we can tell you what legal rights you have and what strengths and weaknesses the case may have. 

Call 317-842-8283 while we can still protect your claims.