Here's a recent question we received:
My daughter was at a bar in Wildwood, NJ over the weekend. A fight broke out between some patrons, and she tried to leave the bar. As she tried to walk out, she got punched by one of the people involved in the fight. She broke her nose and needs plastic surgery. Can she sue? She didn’t do anything. She was just an innocent bystander.
Yes. She may sue. She may be able to financially recover from the patron who hit her. In addition, depending on the circumstances of why and how the fight started, your daughter may also be able to file a lawsuit against the bar.
In order to prevail against the person who hit your daughter, she will have to prove that the person was negligent. In other words, because of the patron’s negligent acts, your daughter was injured. If the patron owns a home, the patron’s homeowners insurance policy would cover his negligent acts. However, some homeowners policy have exclusions that do not cover assault and battery. Therefore, proper investigation would need to be conducted.
Depending on the facts, there may be a couple of theories of liability against the bar. First, if the patron was a minor, it is illegal for a bar to serve alcohol to minors pursuant to New Jersey’s Dram Shop Act. If the minor patron started the fight because he was drunk and becoming belligerent, then the bar would be liable for your daughter’s injuries.
Second, even if the patron was not a minor, the bar may still be liable. For instance, if the patron was becoming visibly intoxicated and was starting trouble, yet the bar continued to serve him alcohol, then the bar would be liable. Because the bar continued to serve an intoxicated patron who started a fight and hit your daughter in the process, the bar is responsible for the patron’s negligent acts.
Again, I do not know the circumstances of your daughter’s unfortunate incident. Please call my office and I would be more than happy to answer your question.
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