Tony Parker is suing WiP nightclub for $20 million for his injury resulting from the Drake/Chris Brown brawl (Copy of Complaint Thanks to TMZ) a couple weeks ago. Parker’s complaint alleges the club was negligent in allowing Drake and Brown into the club and seating them at tables in close proximity although it was public knowledge that there was bad blood between the two. Parker also alleges among other claims, that the club was negligent because it continued to serve alcohol to the participants in the brawl despite them being “visibly intoxicated” and the club did not provide enough security to contain the brawl in a timely manner.
This is significant not only because it may affect Parker’s status on the French national team for the Olympics but also because he recently signed a $50 million contract extension with the San Antonio Spurs. To prove that the club is liable for Parker’s injury, Parker’s attorney will have to show the club was negligent “beyond a preponderance of the evidence”. This standard is less demanding (easier to prove) than “beyond a reasonable doubt” which is applied in criminal cases and frequently heard in the news and on TV shows.
There are certain elements that need to be proved for WiP to be liable for Parker’s injuries.
The first two elements that need to be established is that WiP owed Parker a duty of care and that WiP breached that duty. This means the extent to which the nightclub should have taken measures to prevent its patrons from being injured and whether they did so or not.
In a similar case in New York involving a patron who was assaulted by two unknown assailants at a nightclub, the court held, “While the owner of a public establishment has the duty to control the conduct of persons on its premises when it has the opportunity to do so and is reasonably aware of the need for such control, it has no duty to protect customers against an unforeseen and unexpected assault.” Petras v. Saci, Inc., 18 A.D.3d 848, 796 N.Y.S.2d 673, 674 (N.Y. App. Div. 2005).
Applied to this case, Parker would have to show that the fight was foreseeable (the extent to which the club is able to predict it will happen), which may be possible considering the facts. The fact that Drake and Brown are celebrities and that the bad blood between the two has been publicized may contribute to proving that WiP knew or should have known that there was the possibility of a fight between the two parties.
Parker can also argue that because WiP knew or should have known of the possibility of a fight, they should have added extra security to prevent such an occurrence. On the other hand WiP may argue that they provided adequate security based on prior events at the club and that they have not had any problems in containing similar disturbances in the past.
The third element that needs to be established to prove that WiP was negligent is causation. Causation comes in two different forms, first is direct cause. Direct cause is also referred to as “but for” causation. So in this case it takes the form of, “Parker would not have suffered his injury, but for WiP letting Brown and Drake in the club, continuing to serve their parties alcohol while they were visibly intoxicated and not providing adequate security”. If the answer to this is true, then we have established direct cause. That was pretty simple.
The more complicated causation is legal cause, also referred to as proximate cause, which must also be established. Proximate cause refers to whether the injury was reasonably foreseeable from the negligent action. So in this case, was it reasonably foreseeable by WiP that their actions would have caused Parker’s injury? Based on the facts it can be argued either way but being that WiP likely knew of the bad blood between the two, it can be proved that it was foreseeable that a fight might break out. WiP will likely argue that it’s not foreseeable for the club goers to start heaving bottles but I don’t see that as a strong argument. It’s reasonably foreseeable that a fight would break out in a bar or club.
The last element of negligence Parker would have to prove is damages. This is not terribly difficult because Parker was hit in the eye by a shard of glass. In addition, Parker possesses a unique skill (being an elite basketball player) which is quantifiable by his contract with the San Antonio Spurs.
It’s also still possible for Drake and Brown to be pulled into this lawsuit either by Parker or by WiP and it’s owners. It’ll be interesting to see how this plays out.