The Iowa Supreme Court has ruled a Guthrie Center bar should go to trial for damages after a customer was injured in a fight in their parking lot. On March 20 of 2009 Curtis Hoyt and several members of his construction crew stopped into Gutterz Bowl & Lounge for a drink after work.
Hoyt saw Curtis Knapp — a man who he had a disagreement with — sitting at the bar. Hoyt and coworker approached Knapp and confronted him, but Knapp did not respond.
A waitress who feared there would be a fight got the owner of the bar and the owner cut off their drinks. They continued to taunt Knapp and the Gutterz owner asked them to leave. Hoyt left the bar and as he was walking to his car he was hit in the head, knocked unconscious, and suffered a broken ankle.
Knapp later admitted to hitting Hoyt, but said he did so in self defense. Hoyt sued Knapp and Gutterz for damages.
The district court ruled Hoyt’s injury was not foreseeable and Gutterz did not breach its duty to protect him. The Court of Appeals overturned the district court ruling.
The Supreme Court agreed with the appeal ruling, saying that establishments that serve alcohol are known to have fights, and just because Hoyt was the one who was the aggressor, Gutterz could have foreseen a danger to him. The ruling however did not specifically say Gutterz was liable — it said that is an issue for a jury to decide.
Justice Thomas Waterman issued a dissent in the case. Waterman said there was no reason to eject Knapp who was the victim of a troublemaker’s verbal abuse or call the police before Knapp unexpectedly jumped Hoyt in the parking lot. He said the uncontroverted facts establish the defendant acted reasonably as a matter of law.
The case now goes back to district court.
See the complete ruling here: Gutterz ruling PDF