Nightclubs Have Legal Obligation to Reasonably Protect Patrons from Criminal Attacks, Violence

What starts off as a fun night on the town can quickly turn into a dangerous life-threatening situation. That’s exactly what happened in the area surrounding Club Tropicante in Deerfield Beach.

According to the Sun Sentinel, gunmen opened fire near the nightclub on two separate occasions this past weekend. In one instance, a victim of crossfire, who had visited the club earlier that night, was taken to the hospital. The club’s manager told the Sun Sentinel that the establishment has been serving as a scapegoat for trouble in the area for years. In 2015, the city commission voted the club a public nuisance, and after this weekend’s shootings, the mayor declared an effort to permanently shut the club down.

The manager is fighting back, claiming that the club was closed at the time of this weekend’s incident. But who is really to blame?

With a shooting like this one, the issue is whether or not the incident was foreseeable. Nightclubs, like any commercial establishment, have a legal duty to maintain their premises in a reasonably safe condition, which means that they must protect patrons from reasonably foreseeable criminal attacks or violence.

Violence at a certain location is foreseeable if there is reason to know of the dangerous propensity of the person or people who were involved, or if violence occurs with such frequency that it is reasonably likely to occur again at that same location.

The first part of fulfilling a club owner’s legal duty is to remain knowledgeable and vigilant. Once equipped with information about the people patronizing the club, the surrounding area, and the frequency of violence in the area, the owner then must take whatever security measures are necessary to protect against future criminal acts.

There are certain common characteristics of nightclubs that generally require greater protection than other establishments, including the fact that alcohol or other intoxicants are regularly used on the premises, and that these establishments are open very late. That combination is known to be a dangerous recipe. It doesn’t mean it can’t be safe; it only means greater measures must be taken to ensure patron safety.

Farmer Jaffe founding partner and attorney Brad Edwards specializes his practice in negligent security, sexual abuse and assault, wrongful death and personal injury, and has represented clients who were unfortunately violently harmed or sexually assaulted in or around a nightclub. You can reach Edwards at [email protected] or call our law firm at (954) 603-8394.