State Supreme Court Affirms Ruling in Favor of Drinking Establishment in Negligence Lawsuit

The Supreme Court of Nebraska recently released a decision in which they upheld a lower court’s ruling that granted summary judgment to a drinking establishment in a negligence lawsuit that had been filed by a man who was injured after a disgruntled patron returned to the bar after being forcibly ejected and struck the plaintiff with his vehicle, causing serious injuries. The plaintiff had alleged that the bar owners failed to uphold their duty to protect him from the conduct of the disgruntled patron, although the lower court disagreed. As a result of the appellate ruling, the plaintiff will be unable to recover damages from the drinking establishment, although he may still hold the disgruntled patron accountable for damages that resulted from the assault.

The Plaintiff Was in the Wrong Place at the Wrong Time and Suffered Serious Injuries as a Result

The plaintiff in the case of Pittman v. Rivera was a patron at a drinking establishment owned by the defendant, and he was struck by a car in the parking lot as he left the bar. Although the plaintiff had not been involved in any initial confrontation, the vehicle was being driven by a man who had been forcibly ejected from the bar for fighting earlier in the evening. According to the the facts recited in the appellate opinion, the driver of the vehicle was involved in an altercation with another patron and was thrown out of the bar by security and driven home by a designated driver, only to return shortly thereafter in his own vehicle. The driver was again escorted off the premises by security, after which he entered his vehicle and began driving recklessly, eventually driving toward a crowd of people that included the plaintiff. The plaintiff was warned verbally by security to get out of the way, but he was unable to avoid being hit by the speeding car.

The Plaintiff’s Negligence Lawsuit Against the Bar Was Ultimately Unsuccessful

The plaintiff filed a negligence lawsuit against the defendant, based upon the theory of premises liability. The plaintiff’s suit alleged that the defendant owed him a duty of reasonable care to prevent the type of injury that was caused by the disgruntled patron, and his injuries were the responsibility of the defendant as a result. The district court decision, which was adopted and upheld by the high court on appeal, found that the defendant did have a duty of reasonable care to protect the plaintiff from reasonably foreseeable harm caused by third parties.

The ruling in favor of the defendant was made and upheld on the basis that the harm caused by the disgruntled patron was not reasonably foreseeable, based on the circumstances of this particular case. The court focused on the fact that the disgruntled patron initially left the bar with a designated driver, and upon his return it was not reasonably foreseeable that he would use his vehicle to assault the plaintiff, who was not a party to the original dispute that resulted in the disgruntled patron being thrown out.

Florida Premises Liability Law as Applied to Drinking Establishments

Florida premises liability law is similar to that of Nebraska, in that owners of businesses and other premises open to the public have a general duty of care to prevent reasonably foreseeable harm to members of the public who have the legal right to be on the premises. Private property owners may also be liable for damages to people they have invited on their property, and even trespassers in some instances. The question of whether the harm is reasonably foreseeable is generally left to a jury to determine, except in cases in which the court finds that no reasonable person could foresee the harm, at which point judgment can be granted to a defendant as a matter of law.

Unlike Nebraska, however, Florida law recognizes a separate type of liability that can apply to operators of establishments that provide alcohol to their patrons. In Florida, a plaintiff may be able to collect damages from the owner of a drinking establishment if the plaintiff can demonstrate that the driver was under 21 years old or known to have a history of alcohol addiction and was served alcohol by the establishment prior to the accident. South Florida victims of accidents involving drunk drivers should consult with a Miami accident attorney to determine if these laws may apply in their case.

Are You a Victim of Negligence?

If you or a loved one has been injured or killed in a car accident, you may be entitled to compensation from the provider of the alcohol under Florida law. The experienced South Florida DUI accident and premises liability attorneys at Friedman, Rodman & Frank can increase your chances of receiving all of the compensation that you deserve. Our dedicated Miami personal injury attorneys accept clients in Miami and throughout South Florida in car crashes and other negligence cases, including DUI accidents. If you have been seriously injured, contact us toll-free at 877-448-8585 or use our web form for a free consultation. Se habla Español / Nou Parlé Creole.

More Blog Posts:

State Supreme Court Reverses Judgment for Defendant in Wrongful Death Claim, May 12, 2016, South Florida Personal Injury Lawyers Blog

State Supreme Court Rules that Post-Mortem Misconduct by Doctor Is Medical Malpractice, Reverses Damages Award, South Florida Personal Injury Lawyers Blog, published June 13, 2016.

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