Getting a Recovery for Injuries from a Stray Gunshot; Holding a Nightclub Liable–Part II

In the case of a stray shooting in a nightclub, the nightclub may also be responsible in addition to the shooter.

In giant trouble after accidentally shooting himself with an unlicensed firearm.  This week Giants reciever Plaxico Burress was in the news for accidentally shooting himself in the leg in a nightclub.  See our prior post.

It is comic that Burress shot himself when fumbling with his gun.  However, there is nothing funny about negligent handling of firearms.

The situation could have been far from comic if Burress’s stray bullet hit another customer.  If such were to have happened, then Burress would be liable for that innocent victim’s injuries. 

In the case of Burress, an injured person should be able to secure a recovery from Burress who would have adequate assets and insurance.  However, often the shootist is unknown.  Also, in many cases the shooter may not have assets or insurance.  Therefore, in order to secure a recovery for the injured client we have to sue the nightclub for negligent security.  

The nightclub might also be liable.  Unfortunately, it has become a fact of life that hip-hop nightclubs are dangerous places.  It is not uncommon for the clubs to have customers either pass through a metal detector or go through a “pat-down” on entering the club.  A prudent club would do this so that the customers are not armed inside the club. 

A nightclub, as a place of public gathering and amusement,  has a duty to provide reasonable and adequate security.  That might mean either a metal detector or a “pat-down”.  Also, a club would have to have security or “bouncers” to keep order.  A prudent club owner would have a security plan devised by a security firm rather than just hire a few strong-armed youngsters as bouncers.

In order to pursue the nightclub for negligent security we would have to examine the club’s history of prior crimes.  Also, we would hire a security expert.

Typically, the nightclub would claim as a defense that it is not responsible for criminal acts of its customers against other customers.  However, if the club has had prior crimes, the club owners cannot take the “ostrich approach” of sticking their heads in the sand.  The club owners would have a duty to have some security plan in place.

If you have been injured in a nightclub or another public place, please call me at 800-581-1434 to discuss your case.

Mark E. Seitelman, 12/3/08,


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