The duty of care owed by venue operators and security guards to patrons has been brought into sharp focus by a recent court ruling in Australia. Evolve Legal personal injury team discuss the recent ruling on the case of a social media influencer who was assaulted by a drunk patron at a restaurant and bar in Sydney.
Introduction to the Negligence Claim
A man was assaulted by a drunk patron at the Bucket List Bondi restaurant and bar, resulting in various physical and mental injuries. The man brought a negligence claim against the venue operator and security company, alleging they failed to evict the intoxicated patron who assaulted him. The Court ruled in his favour and found the defendants breached their duty of care. However, a 20% reduction in damages was given due to the man’s own contributory negligence.
Background of the Case
Mr Chadwick visited Bucket List Bondi restaurant and bar, owned by Bondi Beach Food Pty Ltd, in December 2017 during the afternoon. The venue had engaged Crossguard Group Pty Ltd to provide security services to ensure the safety of patrons. Despite the presence of security personnel and staff, the man was subjected to a severe assault by an intoxicated customer within the premises. The injured Mr Chadwick maintained that the injuries inflicted by the intoxicated individual could have been prevented if the venue operator and security company had been vigilant and removed the patron due to their level of intoxication. He alleged that the duty of care owed by the venue operator and security company was breached.
Court Decision: Negligence Found with Contributory Negligence
In the legal case brought by Mr Chadwick against the venue operator and security company of Bucket List Bondi, the Court found in Mr Chadwick’s favour, ruling that the defendants breached their duty of care. However, the Court also determined that Mr Chadwick was partially responsible for the incident and reduced the damages awarded to him by 20%. According to the Court’s decision, the defendants were aware of the patron’s severe intoxication but failed to take the necessary measures to prevent the situation from escalating. The level of security personnel needed to be improved, with no guards available to intervene when needed. Mr Chadwick’s own behaviour was also considered, as he was found to have some responsibility for the incident. Despite this, the Court ruled that the defendants had a greater duty of care towards Chadwick as a patron of their venue.
Duty of Care of Venue Operators and Security Guards
This case highlights the duty of care owed by venue operators and security guards to patrons. It is negligent not to take reasonable steps to control the sale of liquor and minimise harm, including from other patrons, where the venue is licensed to serve alcohol. The Court determined that for this type of venue the common law duty of care extends beyond the duty owed by an occupier to a lawful entrant to also include the duty to control ‘violent, quarrelsome, or disorderly conduct on licensed premises.’
Assessing Economic Loss in the Age of Social Media Influencers
Mr Chadwick’s primary income was from social media influencing and OnlyFans, but the Court awarded past economic loss based on his previous employment. The Court noted the possible economic power of influencers and social media accounts. However, the court concluded that Mr Chadwick’s social media based business Rig Fit was not commercially sustainable at the time of his injury. While he had made some sales of his products, the business itself was not viable. While he also generated income from OnlyFans, the photographs used were taken prior to the injury. The ruling provides an example of how Courts may treat claims for economic loss when a plaintiff’s primary income is from generated via social media channels. In short, the courts will still apply usual business principles to assess whether there was a likelihood of the business enjoying long-term success. Instead of assessing his economic loss based on his social media potential, the court assessed his income based on his trade qualifications as a fitter and turner.
The court awarded him almost $200,000 for past economic loss, loss of superannuation benefits and future economic loss. The court did acknowledge that Mr Chadwick’s perception that there had been damage to his brand and this led to a psychological impact on his confidence and self worth. The Court did allow for this when awarding Mr Chadwick an additional $46,000 for non-economic loss (i.e. damages for pain, suffering and loss of amenity of life).
Implications of the Ruling: Duty of Care and Economic Loss
The recent ruling in Mr Chadwick’s case emphasises the importance of venue operators and security guards fulfilling their duty of care obligations towards patrons. The Court’s decision highlights the need for adequate security measures and responsible service of alcohol in licensed premises to ensure customers’ safety. The ruling also demonstrates the consequences that can arise when the duty of care obligations are not met. There may be significant loss that may result.
One notable aspect of the case is the economic loss suffered by Mr Chadwick, whose primary work efforts at the time of the accident was derived from sales made though social media influencing. While Mr Chadwick may have felt that his social media based business has prospects of becoming a success, the courts may still opt to assess damages against measures that are used in traditional business models. The ruling demonstrates how Courts may consider a plaintiff’s loss of income when their primary source of revenue is through non-traditional means, such as social media influence. This has implications for assessing economic loss in cases involving individuals whose income is not derived from conventional employment or business activities or who are in the start up phase of their business when they are injured.
The ruling in Mr Chadwick’s case highlights the importance of duty of care obligations in licensed venues and the potential economic loss that may result from breaches of those obligations. It serves as a reminder for venue operators and security personnel to take all necessary steps to ensure the safety of their patrons and for individuals to take reasonable care of their safety while on licensed premises.
EVOLVE LEGAL – HOW WE CAN HELP WITH MATTERS INVOLVING NEGLIGENCE
Evolve Legal personal injury lawyers can aid individuals injured due to negligence. In cases like Clinton Chadwick’s, the lawyers can help clients understand their legal rights and options for pursuing compensation.
The lawyers can guide the duty of care owed by venue operators and security guards to patrons. They can explain that it is negligent not to take reasonable steps to control the sale of liquor and minimise harm, including from other patrons, where the venue is licensed to serve alcohol. They can also advise on the duty to control ‘violent, quarrelsome, or disorderly conduct on licensed premises.’
In cases where a plaintiff’s primary income is from social media influencing, Evolve Legal personal injury lawyers can assist in assessing economic loss. They can help clients to understand how the Courts may treat claims for economic loss in such cases. The lawyers can explain that the Court may award past economic loss based on the plaintiff’s previous employment and that the economic power of influencers and social media accounts may need to be revised.
Furthermore, Evolve Legal personal injury lawyers can help clients to understand the implications of court rulings such as the one in Chadwick’s case. They can explain how such rulings may impact the duty of care owed by venue operators and security guards to patrons and how the Courts may assess economic loss in cases involving social media influencers.
Overall, Evolve Legal personal injury lawyers can provide valuable assistance to individuals injured due to the negligence of venue operators and security companies. They can help clients understand their legal rights and options and provide guidance on pursuing compensation for their injuries and economic losses.