Security in South Florida Bars and Clubs: Do I Need a Lawyer?


Natives and visitors alike enjoy the beaches and nightlife in Florida, often including the “night club experience” in bars and nightclubs throughout Broward, Miami and Palm Beach. Usually, this means a fun night of hanging out with friends, drinking, meeting fun people, and dancing. Unfortunately, there can be a dark side to these clubs as well, as evidenced by the growing number of dangerous night club incidents such as drunken brawls, stabbings, and even shootings.

Our Fort Lauderdale accident attorneys know such incidents have led to increased security measures at many bars and clubs, and have brought night club safety and security into the legal spotlight. The owners of Florida clubs and bars have the duty to keep their patrons safe, and when injuries happen, those owners may be held liable for compensating victims under the law of premises liability. In one recent Florida court case regarding inadequate security, a night club patron who was severely beaten won an award of over one million dollars from the club owners. The plaintiff’s argument was that the security provided at the nightclub was inadequate, and that the club owner’s negligence contributed to the assault and battery that he suffered there.

Inadequate Security Laws in Florida

The state of Florida has premises liability laws regarding “inadequate security,” to protect patrons and visitors at businesses and public places from criminal or violent activity. Although these laws do not require that the owner of a nightclub or bar protect its patrons against any conceivable harm from third parties, they are legally required to take measures to protect patrons from reasonably foreseeable harm.

The definition of “reasonably foreseeable harm” depends upon a number of factors, such as the type of business, its location, and the history of criminal or violent activity on the premises. In the case of a night club, the large numbers of young patrons, the fact that alcohol is served all night, and the location of many clubs in “wilder” parts of town all increase the chance of crimes or violence on site. Night club owners are required to have enough guards and the right security measures to ensure that fights or other crimes can be spotted and stopped before any patrons are injured, both inside and in club-owned parking areas.

Assault by Nightclub Employees

Sometimes, people injured in nightclub incidents are not the victims of the negligent security, but are instead the victims of overzealous bouncers and security personnel. Poorly trained security guards and bouncers, or a club owner’s failure to screen out those with criminal histories, can result in nightclub security actually escalating fights, using excessive force, or even causing violent altercations.

Nightclub security employees do not have any special authority to use excessive force or violence in performance of their duties. Unless they are acting in self-defense or bringing a violent patron under control to prevent injury to others (protecting against an “imminent threat of death or serious bodily harm”), bouncers and security guards are not allowed to grab, tackle, or strike an individual being removed from the club. If they do so, this may constitute an assault, and may be cause for criminal charges of assault and battery against the bouncer, and/or civil charges against the nightclub owner to collect damages for injuries incurred.

Do You Need a Lawyer?

Individuals who are injured or suffer financial losses at a bar or nightclub due to criminal activity, violence, or overzealous club security should immediately consult with an attorney to protect their rights to compensation for their losses. The Fort Lauderdale premises liability and personal injury attorneys of Madalon Law can explain the laws regarding inadequate security, negligence, and assault, and will assist in recovering damages from the business owners.