Nightclub Found 35% At Fault for Injuries to Patron Struck By Beer Bottle
Reasons for judgement were released today discussing the duty of British Columbia nightclubs to take reasonable care in seeing that their patrons are safe.
In today’s case (Hartley v. RCM Management Ltd.) the Plaintiff was injured when he was “struck by a beer bottle in his right eye by an unidentified assailant” while at a nightclub. The Plaintiff sued the corporate defendants that operated the Nightclub.
Before being struck by the bottle the Plaintiff had a verbal altercation with the unknown assailant which lasted 2 – 2.5 minutes. The Plaintiff argued that the Nightclub was responsible for failing to intervene in that time and had they done so this injury would have been prevented. Madam Justice Gerow agreed in part with the Plaintiff and found that the unknown assailant was 50% responsible, the Plaintiff was 15% responsible and the corporate Defendants 35% responsible for failing to have its security guards intervene in the altercation. In reaching this verdict the Court provided the following reasons:
 It is clear from the case law that the corporate defendants were not an insurer of Mr. Hartley’s safety. However, there are circumstances in which an occupier of a nightclub or bar has been found liable to its patron for injuries caused by another patron. Whether or not an occupier of a nightclub or bar will be liable for injuries caused to a patron by another patron is very fact dependent.
 The issue is whether the corporate defendants took reasonable steps to protect Mr. Hartley from a danger they ought to have recognized when Mr. Lutke and the unidentified man were yelling and pushing and shoving.
 On the night of the incident, there were five security staff on duty. The uncontroverted evidence of Mr. Lutke and Mr. Hartley is that Mr. Lutke and an unidentified man were involved in an altercation – pushing and shoving accompanied by loud yelling – for 2 to 2½ minutes….
In my view, it is reasonably foreseeable that the type of altercation described by Mr. Lutke and Mr. Hartley could escalate, and lead to a fight in which someone could be injured by being hit by a bottle.
 The uncontradicted evidence of Mr. Hartley and Mr. Lutke is that the altercation went on for 2 to 2½ minutes before Mr. Lutke was hit with the bottle and Mr. Hartley stepped in to assist him. As indicated earlier, Mr. MacLeod conceded that such behaviour – yelling and shoving and pushing – would not be tolerated for that length of time in the Barfly. I am of the view there was more than adequate time for security staff to intervene before Mr. Hartley felt it necessary to go to Mr. Lutke’s aid. Their failure to do so was, in my view, a breach of their duty under s. 3 of the Occupiers’ Liability Act.