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(Attempted) Murder on the Dancefloor

Everett & Another v Comojo UK Ltd t/a the Metropolitan & Others: Liability of nightclub for assault

 

Judgment was handed down in the Court of Appeal on 18 January 2011 in the above case. 

The case concerned an assault in a upmarket private members nightclub.  A waitress working in the club was allegedly assaulted by two patrons.  Another patron, and regular guest of the club, was aggrieved on behalf of the waitresses  and (as one does) sent for his driver who, on arrival, attacked the men in question with a large knife and very nearly killed both of them.  The driver was sentenced to life imprisonment for the assaults and the badly injured men sued the nightclub for failing to prevent the assault.

 The key question was whether or not the nightclub owed any duty in relation to the acts of a third party and, if so, whether the club was in breach of that duty on the particular facts. 

 

LJ Janet Smith in her leading judgment in the Court of Appeal decided that the nightclub did owe a duty in relation to the acts of third parties but that, whilst it had a duty to take reasonable care, on the facts of this case there was no breach of duty as there was little the nightclub could do in the circumstances and it was not foreseeable that there would be an assault in an upmarket nightclub such as this one. 

This judgment is worrying for nightclubs and hotels as it means that, depending on the nature of the establishment, there may be cases in the future where such establishments will be held liable for the acts of third parties on their premises.  While the standard to be applied is realistic there is still undoubtedly a duty owed by clubs and hotels and they will have to decide how they need to behave in order to respect that duty.    

 

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