Drunk guy started a fight and lost, now he wants to sue me!

by SD
(Long Beach, CA)

I was at a bar when a drunk guy was calling a girl the C word and threatening to hit her. I walked up and he started yelling at me. I stayed calm as they pushed the guy out of the bar. 15 minutes later he was back in the bar leering at me and talking on the phone. He left and came back in doing the same thing.

Agitated, I went outside and we got into a fist fight. Now he's threatening to sue me if I don't pay him $5k for his injuries. He was the one to start the fight, and now he wants to sue ME? Is that even legal? Should I get a lawyer? Thanks for any information you can give.

Visitor Question:
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ANSWER for "Drunk guy started a fight and lost, now he wants to sue me!":

SD (Long Beach, CA):

Everything seemed in your favor until you stated: "Agitated, I went outside and we got into a fist fight." The other guy was likely a drunken and disorderly fellow. His calling the woman a terrible name, speaking on a cell phone and "leering" at you did not constitute an imminent threat of serious bodily injury or harm to you or the woman.

Drunken bar patrons often act like jerks. It’s the nature of drunkenness. Yet being a jerk does not give another bar patron the right to initiate a bar fight, whether inside a bar or outside.

From the facts you present, the drunken fellow never took threatening action against you or a close third party. Instead he stayed outside. When you walked outside you presumably did so to fight with him. The whole idea of chivalry to protect the woman’s honor seems to be readily apparent.

Unless your intent was to go outside and counsel the fellow or drive him home, your going outside seems to constitute an initiation of the fight. As a result, and if you struck him first, you are indeed liable for his injuries.

There may be mitigating circumstantial negligence involved. The State of California is a pure comparative fault state. This means the victim of a fight, such as the drunken fellow, can successfully sue you for his injuries, but the amount he can expect to recover will be lessened by his comparative fault.

Being drunk could be considered as comparative fault. As a result, you may be liable for 60% of damages and he for 40%...or any other reasonable percentage distribution.

The above is general information. Laws change frequently, and across jurisdictions. You should get a personalized case evaluation from an attorney licensed in your state. Find a local attorney to give you a free case review here, or call (888) 647-2490.

Best of luck,

Judge Calisi

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