Last week I wrote about drunken driving cases and what lawyers mean when they talk about dram shop lawsuits. ‘What’s a dram shop lawsuit?’ Today I’m going to answer another question with this familiar theme: too much to drink that eventually breaks out into a bar fight. After a fight that leads to costly medical care the injured guy will want to talk about who usually can he sue and why. These are real questions from real people, I don’t make these up.  

Question: What can I do if a bottle was broken on my face at a bar?
Question Detail: Last night I was at a bar. My friend and a random guy at the bar got into it and before I knew it I was punched in the face. I punched the guy back and he fell on the ground. He then got up and proceeded to break a bottle over my head. He was arrested on felony charges and I was taken to the Hospital. If I sue this guy what can I expect. I have been led to believe he has money.

Answer: Good question, you may actually have two claims against two different people. First, you have a claim for assault and battery against the other guy, the one who smacked you in the head with the bottle. And second, you may have a claim against the bar. The claim against the bar could be two-fold, the one for serving the guy till he was drunk and a second claim for not having security on-site.

The assault claim is easier than the dram shop claim, but complicated. When a guy punches you it’s a battery, but let us not forget you also punched him; but apparently in self-defense. Here is where things get complicated. That guy will line up his drunken friends and you yours. The jury will then listen to two groups of men all acting like before today they were good ol’ boys, church goers who that night had just come from knitting class and stopped at the local tavern for “just one beer when low and behold they were pulled into the fight by the other guys”.

Yeah I know those are my eyes rolling.

What about the bar? If the guy was drunk and you can prove it then you may be able to recover under the Iowa dram shop act. His medical records may show his level of blood alcohol. The higher it is the easier it will be to prove his drunken state. With his height, weight and testimony about how long he was there we can get close with how much he had to drink because depending on who they are trying to impress, drunks always lie about how much they had to drink.

So while the bar fight part is interesting, it’s still a difficult case to prove and it will more than likely require a lawsuit.

A second part of this dram shop claim is about the lack of security. If this is a rowdy place and should have on-site security (bouncers) then not having them could be a claim of negligence or one sounding in premise liability law. I won’t get into the details of it because it’s complicated and would take up way too much page space.

Last piece of advice, find a new bar. That place is trouble. It reminds me of Toby Keith’s song, I Love This Bar.

Steve Lombardi
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Iowa personal injury, workers' compensation, motorcycle, quadriplegic, paraplegic, brain injury, death
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