There was a disturbing item in today’s news, about an assault and battery that occurred at a Brighton bar recently. It illustrates an important legal reality surrounding the liability of bars, taverns and restaurants, for injuries that patrons can suffer when attacked at such an establishment.
Before I discuss the legal issues here, some background on this incident: The Boston Globe and other media have reported that on January 24 2016 at about 1:00 AM, about 20 men viciously attacked another man (yes, one man,) inside the Green Briar Pub on Washington Street, in Brighton. According to police reports, the assailants used glass bottles, fists and even chairs in the attack. It will come as no surprise that the victim was extremely seriously injured – and that’s just discussing his physical injuries. Psychologically, the trauma from such an event can last a lifetime. Just try to imagine being the victim of such a savage, barbaric attack.
So, aside from arrests and criminal prosecution of the attackers, what’s the legal story with the owner(s) of such a bar in such a situation? Can they be held civilly liable for the victim’s physical and mental injuries? The answer to that question, is — as it is so frequently in the law — “it depends.” Specifically, it depends on a variety of legal factors:
- Whether the bar or restaurant took adequate security measures to safeguard patrons from this type of assault.
- Whether the establishment over-served alcohol to the assailants (and others.)
- Whether or not the establishment had a history of violent incidents.
- Whether or not the establishment had a prior history of regulatory/disciplinary actions taken against it by a licensing authority (such as the city or town it is located in, and/or the Massachusetts Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission, otherwise known as the “ABC.”)
Bars, taverns, restaurants and other establishments licensed to serve alcohol in Massachusetts, are required to carry minimum liability insurance coverages, presently at $300,000 per occurrence (many carry more than this.) Believe it or not, liability insurance for this type of coverage (i.e., injuries resulting from negligent service of alcohol, or injuries resulting from physical assaults occurring at an establishment) didn’t used to be the law: The legislature required this change not that long ago. Why is this important? Because it is largely from this source of money that damages would be paid to the victim of a bar or restaurant assault or battery. Without this type of insurance, an injured victim could sue the bar and obtain a jury verdict or reach a settlement – but the bar owners would often hide their assets in advance, or declare bankruptcy after losing in court. The result was often that the victim was left uncompensated for his injuries – because even with a verdict in his favor, you “can’t get blood from a stone.”
As a Boston bar assault attorney, I have seen far too many of these cases. The injuries that bar assault victims suffer can often be horrendous. Never forget: Despite their appeal, bars are dangerous places: It is a medical fact that alcohol incites aggression; that’s why the term “barroom brawl” was created. Be careful in the alcohol establishments you choose to go to. And if you or someone you know is injured in an attack or assault at a bar, make sure that you consult an experienced Massachusetts bar assault lawyer. These types of cases demand a lot of experience – successful experience – to win. I do not recommend that any victim of a Massachusetts bar attack, consult with an attorney who does not have a solid track record of success in suing and recovering substantial damages for the bar injury victims.