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Premises Liability for Fights Between Guests

Premises Liability for Fights Between Guests

When a fight breaks out between guests in a casino or bar and someone gets seriously hurt as a result, a lawsuit can sometimes be brought against the owner of the venue on a theory of premises liability. Nevada law limits when businesses are liable for the wrongful actions of non-employees. Someone who is injured in a situation like this can benefit from understanding their legal options.

Premises liability, negligence, and fights

For a bar or nightclub to bear liability for injuries from a fight between patrons, it must have acted negligently. All businesses have a general obligation to keep their premises safe for visitors. A belligerent guest who is attacking others is arguably a “dangerous condition” that a venue can’t simply ignore without violating this general safety principle. How much obligation a venue has to maintain security and limit the accessibility of potential weapons, like glass bottles, will depend on the nature of the venue itself. A bar with a history of brawls is more likely to be liable for injuries from the next fight than a restaurant where fights are unheard of events.

Note that in its effort to foster a robust nightlife industry, Nevada has limited the liability of businesses that serve alcohol for injuries caused by their drunk patrons. Under NRS 41.1305, a licensed seller of alcohol is not liable for damages caused by patrons as a result of their consuming alcohol, unless the patron was underage. As a result, the mere fact that a patron was drunk is not enough to make a venue liable for the injuries the patron causes.

Nevada limits the liability of hotels for third-party torts

Nevada law protects the owners of hotels, inns, and other kinds of lodging from liability for injuries caused by visitors who are not employees or under the hotel’s control. Under NRS 651.015, an owner is civilly liable for such injuries only if:

  1. The wrongful act that caused the injury was foreseeable, and
  2. The owner did not exercise due care for the safety of the injured person, or failed to take reasonable precautions against the foreseeable act.

An act is only “foreseeable” if prior incidents of similar wrongful acts had taken place, and the owner was aware of them, or if the owner failed to exercise due care for the safety of the injured person. The latter type of “foreseeability” may seem unintuitive. The idea is that once a hotel owner becomes aware of a dangerous situation, it must exercise due care to prevent it from injuring guests.

These rules can be interpreted to mean that in many situations a hotel will not be liable for fights between guests, but facts matter. A venue where fights have regularly occurred in the past probably has a higher obligation to employ security personnel and take other steps. What qualifies as “due care” will vary according to the circumstances as well, but might include calling police and providing a safe exit route for people trying to flee. Whether due care includes an obligation to physically subdue a violent person will depend on a close look at the facts.

Consult with a personal injury lawyer

For over 45 years the law firm of Greenman Goldberg Raby Martinez has represented clients in the Las Vegas area in cases involving personal injury. Our attorneys can answer your questions about how to best pursue your legal rights after being injured in a fight. To speak to an attorney at no cost, please give us a call today at 702-388-4476. We can also be reached through our contacts page.