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Can a Company Be Held Liable for a Fight with Injuries on their Property?

June 20 2020

Fights happen. Whether people are amped up due to alcohol, drugs, or the intoxicating effects of a sporting event, too many fights break out in bars and other establishments around New York City.

If you’ve been caught in the middle of a fight, you might wonder whether you can sue. Ideally, if the fight happened in a business or other establishment, you could sue them, as they should have a large business liability policy to cover your injuries. After all, the person who punched you might be broke. But a business should be able to cover any losses you have suffered.

New York premises liability law covers accidents on people’s property. Whether you can sue will depend on certain factors discussed below.

Did You Start the Fight?

If you started the fight, then you will probably not receive any compensation. You are not the victim in any sense of the word.

Even if you did not start the fight, you ideally should prove you did not do anything to provoke the confrontation. This means no heated name-calling, violent gestures, or other actions that a reasonable person might interpret as provocation.

If you were caught up in the middle of a fight, or if someone attacked you for absolutely no reason, then you can reasonably defend yourself. But you shouldn’t have instigated the confrontation if you hope to receive compensation. You also shouldn’t have escalated a situation. If someone shoves you, that is not a license to punch them in the face.

Was Security Lax?

Some legal claims can be brought under the theory of negligent security. Businesses and other property owners must take reasonable steps to keep their property safe. If they don’t, and someone is injured as a result, then the business could face a legal claim.

Here is an example. A bar might not employ any bouncers, though there is a history of fights. The bar also serves patrons past the pint of intoxication and doesn’t tell unruly patrons to leave. If a patron attacks another person, then the bar could have been negligent in the security it provided.

This is a fact-intensive analysis. In other situations, the bar might not be responsible. For example, a fight might have broken out even if the bar had sufficient bouncers.

Did an Employee Attack You?

Generally, employers are vicariously liable for the actions of their employees. However, this law doesn’t apply in a straightforward manner when an employee commits intentional acts, like starting a fight. Insurance also doesn’t typically cover violent acts.

If an employee attacked you, getting compensation is more complicated. It is still possible. For example, the company might have been careless in hiring, training, or supervising an employee. Failing to check references—which would have revealed a history of violent episodes—could make an employer liable.

Does the Company Have Insurance?

Businesses should have insurance as a condition of obtaining a license, and this insurance should cover negligence claims. After an attack, reach out to the company and ask for their insurance information.

Without insurance, it is harder to obtain fair compensation. This is why suing your attacker rarely makes sense. Insurance typically covers negligent acts, not intentional ones.

Contact a New York City Premises Liability Lawyer Today

Lipsig, Shapey, Manus & Moverman is the firm to contact when you are injured in a fight. Call us today at 212-285-3300 or send in our contact form. Consultations are always free.