Bar Fights: Competing Policy Issues Left to the Jury to DecideA bar has a duty to protect it’s patrons from attack when the bar owner has reasonable cause to anticipate conduct likely to endanger the safety of patrons. However, a landowner is not an insurer of a visitor’s safety even when there is an extensive history of criminal conduct on the premises. The competing interests is often litigated. In Ware v. P.J.’s Cocktail Lounge Rest., Inc., plaintiff went to a bar. Upon entering, he was patted down for weapons. Plaintiff ordered a drink, and another patron got upset and yelled at him loudly. The altercation did not escalate at that point. Later in the night, the angry patron came back to the bar and shot plaintiff in the stomach. Plaintiff sued the bar arguing that it was negligent in allowing an assailant to gain entry in light of five prior similar criminal incidents at the premises. The bar moved for summary judgement by arguing that it did not have a duty to protect the plaintiff from a sudden and unforeseen assault, and it did not negligently hire the independent contractor security company. In support of its motion, the bar included an affidavit from a security expert stating that the use of licensed security and four visible surveillance cameras were sufficient to maintain the safety of patrons. The plaintiff submitting an affidavit of its own security expert who concluded that the fact pattern of a similar incident two years prior made it clear that the bar’s security measures were deficient. The expert also stated that the bar was responsible for providing reasonable security, and a simple pat down for weapons by two security guards was insufficient. The court held that there was a triable issue of fact as to whether given the history of the prior violent criminal history at the bar, the security measures taken were reasonable. This decision illustrates that courts are often unwilling to balance competing policy issues, in favor of having a jury decide close calls. Thanks to Moya O’Connor for her contribution to this post.