Who’s Liable in a Bar Fight?

ELI5: Negligence

St. Patrick’s Day is a day known for celebrating and grabbing a beer, but what happens if things get out of hand at the bar? Is there anything you can do if you were in a St. Patrick’s Day bar fight?  Maybe you’re wondering if you can sue the owner of the bar for allowing the bar fight to happen in the first place. After all, suing the owner of the bar seems like a better idea than suing your opponent, assuming your opponent doesn’t have enough money to compensate you for your injuries.While it’s not impossible, unfortunately, even if you were seriously injured in a bar fight, it may be difficult to get compensation, both from the bar owner, and from the other person involved with the fight.

Premises Liability – Bar Fight Lawyer

Under premises liability, property owners can be held responsible for the injuries guests sustain on the property. Usually, this happens when the property owner failed to remove hazards from the property, or take reasonable precautions to ensure that guests did not become injured due to the property conditions. Premises liability applies to both residential and commercial properties.

So bar owners are generally responsible for removing hazardous conditions from the bar in order to keep their patrons safe. If a guest is being obnoxious, or causing problems, they may need to be removed from the bar in order to protect the other patrons.


In order to prove that a bar owner was negligent, a personal injury attorney would need to prove that they had a duty, or legal obligation, to take precautions in order to prevent injury. To put that into context, in a premises liability claim a bar owner likely has a duty to remove unsafe conditions from their property, including guests who pose a danger. A bar owner may also have a duty to clean up spills before someone slips and falls, ensure that the establishment doesn’t serve one guest too much alcohol, and more. Since bar owners have a legal obligation to keep premises safe for patrons, a lot of people wonder if they can sue the bar for injuries that they’ve sustained in a bar fight. If the bar owner knew that this particular assailant who knocked you out had done it several times before, for no reason, the bar owner has an obligation to expel this unsafe person from the bar before they injure anyone else. But if the bar owner had never had an issue with this person before, it would be difficult to claim they had a duty to protect others from them. 

Foreseeability – Bar Fight Lawyer

Legally speaking, foreseeability refers to a person’s ability to anticipate the risks associated with their circumstances. If you know there is a potential for injury, you may have a duty to take reasonable precautions in order to prevent that injury. This is where most bar fight cases have problems. There is not usually a way for a bartender to know when a person is about to begin a bar fight. On busy days like St. Patrick’s Day, it may be impossible for bartenders to constantly monitor all guests in order to prevent the first punch from being thrown. Property owners are not usually responsible for their guests’ injuries if a reasonable person of ordinary prudence couldn’t have foreseen the dangers. However, this is often why bars are cautious not to over-serve patrons.

Personally Suing the Other Party

If the bartender couldn’t have foreseen the bar fight–and that’s usually the case–then you do have another option. Technically, it is possible to sue the other party for causing you injuries.

However, there are two common problems with going this route. First, in order for a lawsuit to be worth your time and effort, the person you’re suing needs to have the assets or money necessary to compensate you for your losses in the event that the case settles, or a judge orders a judgment against the defendant. For this reason, it may be difficult to sue anyone for a bar fight. Furthermore, if the state you’re in allows parties to apportion fault, you may have some fault in the bar fight, making your case even more difficult to win. Because their action of punching your lights out was likely intentional, their homeowners’ insurance won’t likely cover this bad behavior.

In Summary – Bar Fight Lawyer

In many cases, the bar owner’s lack of ability to foresee that a fight is going to break out makes it very difficult to argue that the bar is liable for the patron’s behavior. Furthermore, since it normally takes two people to start a bar fight, both parties may have some liability. In Utah, if you’re more than 49% liable for your damages, you cannot recover for your damages. Even if you were able to sue the patron who started the bar fight, the patron would need to have the ability to pay for your damages. So in most cases, bar fights don’t make strong personal injury claims.

Injured? We Can Help

When you’ve been injured, Moxie Law Group is here for you. We’re Utah’s first female-led personal injury firm dedicated to fighting for the rights of our clients with determination, character, and nerve. If you’ve been injured, and you’re ready to file a claim, contact Moxie Law Group today.

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