Indiana Bar Not Negligent Because Shooting Was Not Foreseeable
In an October 26, 2016 Indiana Supreme Court decision, Yeakle’s Sports Bar in Marion was granted summary judgment against Plaintiffs that were patrons back in August of 2010. An angry patron fired a gun at another group of patrons within the bar after there was allegedly a derogatory comment made. The gunshots struck unintended targets (the Plaintiffs) and the Plaintiffs filed suit against the bar alleging negligence in “failing to provide security for its patrons; . . . failing to search the shooter for weapons; . . . [and] failing to warn Plaintiffs that the shooter was armed and dangerous.” The trial court dismissed these claims as unforeseeable but the Court of Appeals remanded the case for further proceedings. The Indiana Supreme Court agreed to hear the Bar’s appeal.
The Indiana Supreme Court focused its ruling on the issue of foreseeability. The Court noted in its opinion that because proximate cause is an essential element of a negligence action and the proximate cause is primarily a question of foreseeability, the Court must look at whether the actions of the shooter in this case were foreseeable. The Court found that it was not foreseeable, stating that the broad type of plaintiff here is a patron of a bar and the harm is the probability or likelihood of a criminal attack, namely: a shooting inside a bar. But even engaging in a “lesser inquiry” the Court concluded that although bars can often set the stage for rowdy behavior, we do not believe that bar owners routinely contemplate that one bar patron might suddenly shoot another.