Elmer Meraz went to a bar with his cousin and other friends. While at the bar, Meraz’s cousin started arguing with another patron, Santiago Lopez. Lopez was a known troublemaker and regular customer at the bar and had been regularly ejected from the bar for gang activity and violence. Meraz tried to intervene in the verbal altercation between his cousin and Lopez. A security officer at the bar told all three patrons to leave. When Meraz walked outside of the bar, Lopez pulled out a gun and shot him six times. Meraz was severely injured.
Meraz sued the bar for negligence and premises liability, arguing the bar breached its duty to protect him from Lopez’s violent acts, and failed to maintain safe premises for the bar’s patrons. Meraz asserted the bar regularly allowed gang activity, drug sales and violent assaults on the premises. Furthermore, Meraz claimed that even though Lopez was regularly involved in fights at the bar, he was allowed to come back inside the bar without being searched. Meraz argued the defendant knew or should have known that Lopez posed a risk to other patrons. Meraz filed a motion for partial summary judgment against the bar on the issue of the bar’s liability for negligence.
The federal district court granted Meraz’s motion for partial summary judgment. The court found that no jury could possibly find that the defendant was not liable for the injuries caused to Meraz while on its property. The federal district court concluded that several similar incidents of gang activity, violence and assault had occurred at the bar. The federal district court also found that several prior altercations and violent incidents involved Lopez; therefore, the court found the assault on Meraz was foreseeable and because the bar had failed to protect Meraz from the known dangers on their premises, the district court found the bar was liable for the harms caused by known dangers, which in this case were the violent actions of Lopez.
The implication here is that the bar was liable because it did not meet its standard of care. Negligence was shown when a security guard allowed an individual to enter bar when the security officer knew the individual had a history of violent incidents toward others. The bar failed to meet its standard of care when it allowed gang activity to continue to occur on its premises and failed to establish policies and procedures to prevent it. Given the totality of the circumstances, the court concluded the harm suffered by the plaintiff was reasonably foreseeable.
See Meraz v. El Charro Billiards L.L.C., No. 11-2812, U.S. District Court for the Western District of Tennessee, Oct. 10, 2013. Source: Security Law Newsletter, published monthly by Strafford Publications, Atlanta, GA., www.straffordpub.com, 800-926-7926, ext. 10, firstname.lastname@example.org.