Bouncers and security guards are hired by clubs, hotels, and other establishments to protect the clientele and to eject drunken or disorderly patrons. What happens when they lose control, lose their temper, or use unnecessary force on a person?
Are bouncers or security guards criminally or civilly liable for injuries that they cause? Are the establishments that employ them?
Civil Liability for Assault and Battery in SC
Most people are familiar with Assault and Battery as a criminal offense. Did you know that it can also be the basis for civil liability?
If someone assaults you without legal justification, that person is responsible for the injuries that they caused. If they are employed by a bar, hotel, or other establishment, their employer may also be liable for damages.
When a person is charged with the crime of assault and battery, criminal intent is a necessary element that must be proven. The person must have intended to threaten or cause harm to the alleged victim.
In a civil case for assault and battery in South Carolina, the plaintiff must only prove that the bouncer was negligent. If their negligence or the negligence of their employer was the proximate cause of the injuries, then they are liable for any damage that they caused.
In South Carolina, the elements of a civil claim for assault are: (1) conduct of the defendant which places the plaintiff, (2) in reasonable fear of bodily harm. The separate tort of battery involves an unlawful touching or striking of another person. It does not matter how much force was used and it does not matter if physical injuries resulted.
Common Types of Claims Against Security Guards and Bouncers
Bouncers or security guards are entitled to use reasonable force to eject drunk or disorderly persons from an establishment. They also have a duty to maintain a safe environment and to act reasonably when dealing with the public.
Imagine a bouncer who encounters a drunk person at the bar who is belligerent, yelling at other customers, and causing a disruption. The bouncer, or several bouncers, asks the person to leave. When they do not voluntarily leave, the bouncer takes them by the arm and forcefully escorts them to the door. Most likely, the bouncer is within their rights at this point and they are doing their job.
The drunk person is staggering and unsteady on their feet. As they exit the back door of the establishment, the bouncer shoves the drunk person causing them to fall into the alleyway headfirst. Possibly the bouncer did not intend to cause harm to the drunk person. But, if the shove results in injuries, the bouncer may still be liable for negligence because the use of unreasonable and unnecessary force was the proximate cause of the patron’s injuries.
Because the bouncer was acting within the scope of their employment, the bar will most likely be liable for the bouncer’s conduct as well under what is called “vicarious liability.” The claims that may be brought against the bouncer and establishment may include:
- Assault: Threatening violence to another person.
- Battery: Touching or striking another person without justification.
- Negligence: Violation of a duty to the public and patrons by either the bouncer or the establishment.
- Negligent hiring: Establishments have a duty to hire bouncers who are safe and who do not have a history of violence.
- Gross negligence: Negligence that is shocking enough to justify punitive damages against the bouncer or establishment.
- False imprisonment: When a bouncer or other employer unlawfully detains a person.
If the bouncer or security guard’s conduct was intentional or grossly negligent, the bouncer or establishment may also be liable for punitive damages that are designed to punish the defendant and deter future similar conduct.
Were You Assaulted by a Bouncer or Security Guard?
If you have been injured by a bouncer or security guard in Myrtle Beach, Conway, Charleston, or Columbia SC, the personal injury attorneys at Coastal Law, LLC, will review your case and help you to determine if you have a claim against them.
Schedule a free consultation to discuss the facts of your case by calling (843) 488-5000 or filling out our online form.