Sucker punched, then hit in the head with a brick...is the bar liable?

by Shirley
(Palmyra, PA)

My brother was involved in a bar fight the other night. He had went in the bar and had a couple of drinks. While there, he told some guys there to stop harassing this couple. He said that they weren't doing anything wrong and to leave them alone. This, at some point, resulted in him getting sucker punched.

The bar tender tells them to take it outside, at which point there were other men waiting. When my brother stepped outside, he was hit in the head with a brick. The guys involved sped off, and 911 was eventually called, at which point my brother was taken into the ER with a substantial depressed skull fracture.

My question is, shouldn't the bartender have done something to begin with about the guys picking on the couple? It shouldn't have been my brother's job to stick up for them. (Keep in mind that the owner admits that these guys are known to cause problems.)

Secondly, shouldn't they have tried to either break up the fight or call the cops after my brother was hit the first time, as opposed to telling them to take it outside? Thanks for any perspective you can give on this situation.

Visitor Question:
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ANSWER for "Sucker punched, then hit in the head with a brick...is the bar liable?":

Shirley (Palmyra, PA):

The bartender was under no legal duty to intercede and take action to stop the men from harassing the couple. If the couple felt threatened, they had a "duty to retreat." This means, if they felt threatened, they should have left the bar. This is the case even if the bar owner knew the men were trouble makers.

The bartender was not under a legal obligation to break up the fight. Instead, he or she should have simply called 911. Again, while it seems that would have been the right thing to do, there aren't any laws in the state of Pennsylvania compelling bartenders to call 911 when they are witnessing an assault.

There is a light at the end of the tunnel. If it can be shown the men who assaulted your brother were over-served alcohol, after the bartender knew, or should have known the men were intoxicated, then under Pennsylvania's Dram Shop laws, the bar owner, as well as the men who assaulted your brother, may be liable for your brother's damages.

You can read more about Pennsylvania's Dram Shop law here.

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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