Indiana Court Finds Bar Did Not Owe Patron a Duty to Protect Him Against Criminal Attack

Earlier this month, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in an Indiana premises liability case discussing if a bar owed the plaintiff, who was a patron of the bar, a duty of care. Specifically, the case required the court to determine if the bar’s duty to the plaintiff extended to an attack carried out by a third party. Ultimately, the court concluded that the bar could not be held liable for the plaintiff’s injuries because the bar did not know that the fight was impending.

According to the facts as laid out in the court’s opinion, the plaintiff and his friend were socializing at the defendant bar. When the bar closed, the plaintiff, his friend, and the remaining customers left. In the parking lot, the plaintiff and another man got into a fight, leaving the plaintiff permanently blind.

The plaintiff sued the bar, arguing that it was negligent in failing to take the necessary precautions to protect guests in an area that was known for criminal activity. The bar responded that it did not have a duty to protect the plaintiff from the unforeseeable criminal acts of a third party. The plaintiff claimed that the bar should have been aware of the dangers, because the police were called five times in the preceding year for fights occurring outside the bar between the hours of 3:00 and 3:30 a.m.

The bar filed a motion for summary judgment, which was denied by the trial court. The bar then appealed the case up to the Indiana Supreme Court.

On appeal, the state’s high court reversed the lower court’s finding, holding that the plaintiff was not owed a duty of care by the bar. The court acknowledged that under Indiana premises liability law, a landowner has a duty to protect guests against third-party attacks. However, the court went on to explain that this duty only extends to foreseeable attacks.

Here, the court determined that the fight resulting in the plaintiff’s injury was not foreseeable. The court explained that foreseeability in this context is different than when considering causation, noting that the court must consider “the broad type of plaintiff and harm involved, without regard to the facts of the actual occurrence.” This requires courts to consider whether there is the likelihood of harm is serious enough to make a reasonable person take action to avoid it. In other words, the court assesses both the seriousness of the potential harm as well as the likelihood of the harm occurring.

Here, the court went over several cases presenting similar scenarios, ultimately finding that the fight was unforeseeable. The court noted that the fight erupted suddenly and that there was seemingly no provocation inside the bar. Additionally, the court pointed out that the bar had no knowledge that the assailant was “particularly suited to committing the specific criminal acts they perpetrated.”

Have You Been Injured in an Indiana Premises Liability Accident?

If you or a loved one has recently been hurt after an Indiana slip and fall accident, or any other type of premises liability accident, contact the dedicated injury lawyers at Parr Richey Frandsen Patterson Kruse. At our Indiana personal injury law firm, we represent accident victims in all types of injury claims. To set up a free, no-obligation consultation with an attorney, call 888-532-7766 today.