When someone is in a business, such as a bar and a restaurant, and an altercation occurs, whether physical or verbal, the bar or restaurant might ask them to leave. But what happens if, after a bar or restaurant knows of such an altercation, an injury occurs outside of the bar or restaurant from a continuance of the altercation? Well, if the business knows that someone has been threatened, or could be injured by someone else after leaving the safety of that business, they have a duty to take reasonable precautions to prevent that injury.

Where there is a clear altercation on the premises of a business that a business has knowledge of, it is their duty to attempt to mitigate any potential injury, or prevent it entirely if they can. This can occur if a fight breaks out at a business, such as a bar or a restaurant, and the business either breaks up the fight and throws the parties out, or if the business knows of the altercation. Recently, an Indiana case discussed whether a business has a duty to take reasonable precautions to prevent an injury to a customer.

The Case: Hamilton v. Steak ‘n Shake Operations, Inc.

In this case, Amber Hamilton and her brother were sitting and eating inside a Steak ‘n Shake restaurant, when a group of individuals came in and began taunting and threatening both Hamilton and her brother. The employees at Steak ‘n Shake did nothing for about 30 minutes, at which point they noticed the threats escalate, and so they told the group they had to leave. Soon after, the threats led to physical violence at which point Hamilton was shot in the face.

Hamilton sued Steak ‘n Shake, stating that Steak ‘n Shake should have protected her from this injury, especially because there had been a conflict that occurred in front of Steak ‘n Shake employees. The trial court had to determine if the negligent conduct at issue was sufficiently likely to result in the kind of harm experienced such that the negligent party was liable for the injuries that occurred. The trial court eventually granted summary judgement to Steak ‘n Shake and Hamilton appealed the summary judgement decision.

The appellate court used another case, Rogers v. Martin, to determine whether or not Steak ‘n Shake was liable for the injuries that Hamilton incurred. The court in that case had to determine if a homeowner was liable for injuries that occurred during a fistfight and then whether that homeowner was liable for an exacerbation of injuries suffered because of the fistfight because the homeowner did not take action after the fistfight. The court in that case stated that the homeowner should have taken steps after the initial injury to prevent the injury from getting worse.

Here, the court likened the situation to an injury getting worse. The Steak ‘n Shake employees clearly saw these threatening words getting close to physical violence, and other than asking the group to leave, did nothing else. The court held that Steak ‘n Shake had a duty to prevent anything further from happening, but did not, so they were liable for the injuries that Hamilton suffered.

Have You Been Injured by Someone Else’s Negligence?

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