COA: Sports bar owed duty to man punched by drunk patron

A Lake County sports bar lost its appeal against a patron suing for personal injury when the Indiana Court of Appeals found it was foreseeable to the bar that one of its drunk patron’s was looking for a fight.

After being thrown out the back door of Buddy & Pals sports bar for fighting inside, a drunken William Bailey rounded the corner to the front entrance, where he proceeded to punch a man whom he thought had shoved him inside. Instead, Bailey broke the jaw of bystander Christopher Falaschetti, who later sued Bailey and Buddy & Pals for personal injury.

Buddy & Pals responded with a motion for summary judgment as to Falaschetti’s negligence claim, asserting it owed Falaschetti no duty to protect him from Bailey’s criminal act. The Lake Superior Court denied the bar’s motion for summary judgment, prompting the instant interlocutory appeal.

In its argument before the Indiana Court of Appeals, Buddy & Pals cited Goodwin v. Yeakle’s Sports Bar & Grill, Inc., 62 N.E.3d 384, 386 (Ind. 2016), in support of the finding that it owed no duty to protect Falaschetti against the harm he suffered from the punch. The Indiana Court of Appeals, however, disagreed.

“Goodwin involved one patron suddenly shooting other patrons inside the bar,” Judge Terry Crone wrote Friday. “In contrast, here, a pugnacious patron ejected for fighting punched another patron exiting the bar by the other door.”

The appellate court found that because Buddy & Pals bouncers had anticipated Bailey would move to the front entrance and knew he was already angry, the bar had foreseeable knowledge of Bailey’s violence.

“In sum, Buddy & Pals, through its bouncers, knew that Bailey was a loose cannon who was not taking his ejection well and was in a fighting mood. As such, Buddy & Pals had a duty to take precautions to protect its other patrons, including Falaschetti, from further violent attacks by Bailey on the bar’s premises,” Crone wrote.

Therefore, the appellate court affirmed the denial of summary judgment to the sports bar in Buddy & Pals III, Inc., Buddy & Pals II, Inc., Buddy & Pals Inc., Timothy Heidbreder, and William Frank Bailey, Jr. v. Christopher Falaschetti, 18A-CT-1811. The court further noted a trier of fact would later determine whether Buddy & Pals breached its duty to protect Falaschetti.

This article was first published by The Indiana Lawyer.

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