Del Lago Ptnrs. v. Smith

307 S.W.3d 762 (Tex. 2010)



In a premises-liability case, the plaintiff must establish a duty owed to the plaintiff, breach of the duty, and damages proximately caused by the breach. Whether a duty exists is a question of law for the court and turns on a legal analysis balancing a number of factors, including the risk, foreseeability, and likelihood of injury, and the consequences of placing the burden on the defendant. In premises-liability cases, the scope of the duty turns on the plaintiff's status. Generally, a property owner owes invitees a duty to use ordinary care to reduce or eliminate an unreasonable risk of harm created by a premises condition about which the property owner knew or should have known. 


Respondent bar patron was seriously injured when a fight broke out among bar customers. Respondent patron sued petitioner bar owners for personal injuries. The patron was awarded damages. The trial court, under Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code Ann. § 33.001, reduced the jury's actual damages award by 49 percent and awarded the patron damages in the amount of approximately $ 1.5 million, together with interest and costs. On appeal, the Court affirmed. The owners sought review
and the court affirmed the appellate court's judgment..


Did bar owners have a duty to protect a customer from being assaulted by another bar customer where there were open hostilities between the customer and the other for 90 minutes?




The owners observed, but did nothing to reduce, an hour and a half of verbal and physical hostility in the bar. The owners had a duty to protect the patron because the owners had actual and direct knowledge that a violent brawl was imminent between drunk persons. The duty arose because the owners were aware of an unreasonable risk of harm at the bar that night. The court did not announce a general rule, but held only on these facts that during the 90 minutes of recurrent hostilities at the bar, a duty arose on the owners' part.

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