Security guards and bouncers have a very specific duty; to protect patrons at the bar or nightclub from unruly guests, to prevent crimes, and to control or eject rowdy guests without causing them injury. If a bouncer or security guard causes an injury, it can result in a very complicated lawsuit. Security guards and bouncers are required, like anyone else, to act with reasonable care when performing their duties, meaning if their actions amount to negligence they could face a personal injury lawsuit.
Negligence occurs when an individual violates their duty to provide reasonable care, causing injury or damage to someone else. With negligence cases, intent is irrelevant. Carelessness, recklessness, or even accidents can constitute negligence. Security guards and bouncers are charged with maintaining a safe environment and conducting themselves reasonably when dealing with customers and patrons. Determining “reasonable” behavior can be difficult because it is open to interpretation.
Still, most jurisdictions accept that bouncers and security guards are entitled to use a reasonable amount of force when necessary in their workplace. Certain rowdy or intoxicated patrons may need to be pushed, shoved, or even carried out of the establishment. Sometimes, a particularly unruly patron can become violent, and in that scenario a security guard can defend themselves and use appropriate force to remove the patron. Generally, in scenarios like these seem to warrant reasonable force, but the lines are blurred and accidents do happen.
For instance, there could be a scenario where a bouncer or security guard has to remove an extremely intoxicated and violent customer to protect other patrons. The guards shove the unruly patron out of the door, and due to the customer’s intoxication he stumbles and falls down a stairwell. A person might argue that it was the bouncer’s duty to recognize the customer’s intoxication and within the realm of reasonable care to ensure he did not fall down the stairs, which would constitute negligence. However, negligence cases against security guards and bouncers are difficult to prove, since those bringing suit are usually guilty of bad behavior prior to their injuries.
Security guards and bouncers might be prone to intentional torts. An intentional tort, unlike negligence, is when an individual harms another on purpose. Since bouncers and security guards are allowed to use reasonable force, they might cross the line and exert excessive force. An assault happens when a security guard or bouncer intentionally places a patron in apprehension of imminent physical harm. This would constitute a civil assault , and there does not have to be an actual touching for civil assault to occur. An assault turns to battery when there is physical touching involved. It can be difficult to determine when necessary physical force turns into battery or assault, but generally, if the threat or actual violence exceeds the amount of force reasonably necessary to restrain or eject the unruly patron, the security guard our bouncer could be found liable for battery or assault.
In most cases, if a bouncer or security guard is found liable for harming another, then the establishment they work for would be held liable, since they are employees. However, in some cases where the employee behaves particularly egregious, the employer might not be held liable, unless the victim claims the employee’s behavior was due to improper training.