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Essex County, MA

In this negligent security and dram shop case, the plaintiff contended that the defendant association failed to provide adequate security and served alcohol to an underage patron. As a result, according to the plaintiff, he was assaulted and suffered injury at the hands of the defendants’ guests. The defendant argued that the plaintiff initiated the altercation and that the events around the incident did not occur as the plaintiff reported.

The plaintiff, in his thirties, was on workman’s compensation due to s shoulder injury incurred in his employment as a city road worker. The defendant was hosting a 75th anniversary party for the public golf course owned by the city. The defendant building association runs the golf course’s clubhouse. Esteemed guests were invited to the 75th anniversary tournament, dinner and dancing. The plaintiff was not a member of golf course and did not have a ticket to the event, but arrived at the clubhouse with his wife and another couple who were there to meet friends who were members of the golf club. The plaintiff was involved in an altercation with a member of the golf club wherein the plaintiff sustained injury. The plaintiff asserted that the defendant provided inadequate security and also made a dram shop claim. The dram shop claim was dismissed via pretrial summary judgment.

The plaintiff testified that he was in the clubhouse bar getting drinks for others when he was approached by an individual with whom he had a long standing grudge dating back to when the parties were teenagers. The plaintiff claimed that the other party called him names and that the guest took a swing at him whereupon two other guests held the plaintiff down while the third party hit him. The plaintiff asserted that he was then thrown down a flight of stairs and kicked. The plaintiff sustained a broken nose requiring surgery and has residual issues involving leaking of the nose, difficulty breathing, and pain when bending over.

At trial, the plaintiff called eyewitnesses, including his wife, who testified that there was a mob mentality where people ganged up on the plaintiff. Another witness claimed that he was coming into the bar at the time and saw the fight. The plaintiff’s witness testified that the plaintiff was being attacked. The plaintiff called a security expert who opined that the defendant should have had bouncers and that there should have been people taking tickets at the door and providing securing. The plaintiff’s expert stated that the defendant was negligent in not having adequate security for the event.

The defendant noted that the plaintiff did not bring suit against any of the individuals involved in the alleged assault. The defendant contended that the plaintiff came into the club, had a confrontation with one of the guests, which the plaintiff initiated, and that the plaintiff pushed the guest in the chest prompting the guest to punch the plaintiff. The guest admitted that he punched the plaintiff twice and they ended up in bear hug which was then broken up and the entire incident was over. The defendant’s guest denied that anyone held the plaintiff or threw him down the stairs.

The defendant asserted that it was not necessary to have security at an event such as the subject event. The defendant maintained that this was a 75th anniversary party, a charitable event, with guests including prominent local social figures, members of local government and esteemed guests. The defendant argued that the venue was not one where there was a reasonable expectation that a fight would break out. The defendant’s clubhouse typically hosted weddings, christenings, bridal showers, etc. In 75 years, there had never been an incident; thus, the defendant argued that there was no notice that the defendant needed security on the premises. Further, the defendant asserted that even if security had been present, there would not have been enough time to stop the incident. The interaction between the parties happened quickly and was over quickly.

The defendant also questioned the plaintiff’s damages, pointing to the fact that the plaintiff’s nose had been broken years ago in another fight. The defendant called eyewitnesses who were in the club at the time of the incident, including the man who hit the plaintiff and another who the plaintiff alleged held him. The defendant’s eyewitnesses said that the plaintiff initiated the confrontation verbally and then pushed the guest who responded instinctively by punching the plaintiff. Beyond that the defendant’s witnesses testified that none of what the plaintiff said happened actually happened.

The defendant also called two bartenders who testified that the incident happened outside of the bar, not in the bar as the plaintiff claimed and that, for as long as they had worked there, there had never been any other incident. The head of the defendant building association testified as to the purpose of the event, who was there, the type of guests who were invited, and that there had never had been any fights at the club prior to the subject incident.

The jury found no negligence by the defendant.

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