In Pennsylvania, club owners have a duty to protect patrons from harm even when not caused by club employees.
In Stone v. Super Supreme, a Philadelphia jury awarded $2.5 million to Cheryl Stone, the mother of a club patron (Blease Bruno), who was shot and killed while visiting the nightclub Upper Deck. Bruno was an off-duty security officer who often patronized Upper Deck after his shift ended. Upper Deck was known as popular spot for off-duty security officers in the area. On the night of his injury, he was shot and killed at approximately 4:00am, when another patron got into a violent argument with Upper Deck’s security. The patron shot at the club’s security guard but hit Bruno, who was killed.
Judge Messiah- Jackson of the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas ruled that defendants Super Supreme Co. (the club owners) had knowledge that the location and the character of the business were likely to have individuals with weapons, including guns. The fact that the owners had purchased metal detectors, but did not install them, suggests that the owners anticipated dangerous conduct on the part of third persons and under the Restatement (Second) of torts, had a duty to take precautions and afford protection to customers. Judge Messiah-Jackson found that there was enough evidence to hold the two club owners individually liable as well since they were present at the club during the night of the shooting and because the court found evidence that the corporate entity, Super Supreme, was merely a “sham corporation” that the owners were hiding behind to escape liability.
Special thanks to Remy Cahn for her contribution.