Common situations where the nightclub may be liable include:
- Assault and battery by club bouncers – Nightclub staff may overreact and use physical force on patrons who did nothing unlawful.
- Lack of adequate security – Insufficient staff can lead to catastrophic consequences such as overcrowding and stampedes, especially if there is no one directing patrons where to exit during an emergency.
- Slip-and-fall accidents – It is foreseeable in a nightclub that drinks will be accidentally spilled, and it is arguably negligent if staff fails to frequently surveil the floors and clean up – or cordon off – slippery surfaces.
- Cuts and lacerations from broken glass – It is also foreseeable that nightclub patrons will accidentally drop beer bottles. If staff fails to sweep away the glass shards in time, patrons who get cut by the glass can claim the nightclub was negligent.
- Low lighting – Patrons expect that nightclubs will be dim, though this lack of visibility can lead to serious accidents. Insufficiently-lit areas where there are steps, furniture, or other potential hazards can be grounds for a negligence lawsuit.
- Discrimination – It is unlawful for nightclub owners to disqualify job applicants or to deny admission to patrons based on protected characteristics such as race.
- Food poisoning – Similar to restaurants, nightclubs that provide food have to abide by strict safety codes. Not only can an outbreak of salmonella, e. coli, norovirus, etc., result in lawsuits – they could cause the nightclub to be shut down for weeks while the venue is sanitized.
- Failure to get medical attention – Nightclub staff should foresee that some patrons will get dehydrated, develop alcohol poisoning, or get into fights, and it is negligence if they fail to intervene and call for medical help quickly.
To help you better understand Nevada law regarding nightclub injuries, our Nevada personal injury lawyers discuss:
- 1. Who is liable for my Las Vegas nightclub injuries?
- 2. What damages can I recover?
- 3. What if I am partially to blame?
- 4. What if I was injured by another patron at a Las Vegas nightclub?
- Additional reading
Also see our article about getting beaten up for not paying a bar tab in Nevada.
Under Nevada law, responsibility for a wrongful act is usually limited to the person who committed the act.
However, under certain circumstances, a nightclub might become liable for the action of its bouncers, bartenders or other employees.
In Nevada, a nightclub owner or operator may be held legally liable for a patron’s injuries when:
- An employee of the club performs his or her regular job duties negligently,
- The nightclub is negligent in the hiring or supervision of its staff,
- The club’s policies or practices are discriminatory, or
- Under certain circumstances, an employee commits an intentionally wrongful act.1
Let’s examine each of these situations one by one.
The most common cause of Las Vegas nightclub injuries is employee negligence. Negligence can result in anything from a slip-and-fall or food poisoning to more serious injuries such as those caused by fires from overloaded circuits.
Under Nevada’s respondeat superior doctrine (also known as vicarious employer liability) a nightclub is liable for injuries caused by employee negligence when:
- The employee was acting within the scope of his or her employment, and
- The injury was a normal risk of the employer’s business.2
Example: A waitress at a Las Vegas bar negligently fails to clean up a spilled drink and broken glass. Sally, who is celebrating her birthday at the bar, suffers a slip-and-fall accident. She blacks out and is taken to the emergency room at Sunrise Hospital to be checked for a brain injury and spinal cord injury.
Sally misses several weeks of work and requires several months of physical therapy. Because spilled drinks are a normal risk of serving drinks at a nightclub, the club’s business owner / property owner can be held responsible for Sally’s injuries.
Sometimes a club employee’s actions consist not of negligence, but of an intentional wrongful act such as:
- Sexual harassment,
- Sexual assault,
- Assault and battery,
- Discrimination based on gender, gender identity or sexual orientation,
- False imprisonment, or
- Invasion of privacy.
Under ordinary circumstances, a Nevada employer would not be liable for intentional wrongful acts committed by employees. However, the employer may be liable if it was negligent in hiring, retaining or supervising the employee (as discussed below).
However, where the wrongful act is an inherent risk of the employee’s job, the employer might nevertheless be held liable for an intentional act.3
Example: After waiting in line for over an hour to get into a Las Vegas nightclub, Xavier starts berating the bouncer working the velvet rope. The bouncer takes issue and asks Xavier to leave. Xavier refuses and the bouncer punches him in the face. Physical violence is a risk of a business that engages the services of a bouncer. Accordingly, the nightclub might be liable for Xavier’s injuries if the force was found to be excessive.
A Las Vegas nightclub might be liable for its own negligence in hiring, retaining or failing to adequately supervise an employee.
Nevada’s law on negligent hiring, retention or supervision applies when:
- The club failed to conduct a reasonable background check of an employee,
- The club hired or retained an employee who was unfit for the position or posed a danger to patrons, or
- The club was negligent in supervising, disciplining or training the employee.4
Example: A strip club in Las Vegas receives complaints from some of the dancers that the bartender has been sexually harassing them. The club ignores the complaints and the bartender goes on to sexually assault one of the women. Because the club was on notice of the bartender’s inappropriate sexual conduct, the club is most likely liable for the dancer’s injuries.
Both federal and Nevada laws make it illegal for businesses to discriminate based on gender, gender identity or sexual orientation.
A Las Vegas nightclub might be liable for discriminating against a patron if it or an employee:
- Offers discounts to one gender but not the other,
- Refuses to let gay or transgendered individuals into the club, or
- Otherwise treats anyone differently than other patrons based on gender, gender identity or sexual orientation, whether actual or perceived.5
Suppose you are injured because of the negligence or intentional torts of a nightclub owner or one of its employees or independent contractors. In that case, you may be entitled to recover financial compensation for:
- Medical bills,
- Physical or occupation rehabilitation,
- Lost wages,
- Lost earning capacity,
- Legal fees, and
- Pain and suffering.6
Our proactive Las Vegas injury attorneys will go over every detail of your case to make sure you receive compensation for all your damages.
Under Nevada’s comparative negligence / shared fault law, a plaintiff is entitled to recover damages if one or more defendants were at least 50% liable for the plaintiff’s injuries.7
The amount of the plaintiff’s damages will simply be reduced by the extent to which the plaintiff is liable.
Example: Ronnie is dancing at a Las Vegas nightclub when another patron bumps into him. Ronnie pushes the other patron off the dance floor and into a table. The other patron gets up and punches Ronnie in the face, breaking his cheekbone. The club’s security guard does not see the fight because he is busy flirting with a customer.
Ronnie sues the nightclub for his medical treatment expenses, scarring and pain and suffering. A jury agrees there was negligent security personnel and values Ronnie’s damages at $100,000. However, the jury also determines that by starting the fight, Ronnie was 40% responsible. Ronnie’s personal injury claim award is reduced by 40% to $60,000.
Las Vegas businesses are not normally liable for the wrongful acts of other customers.
However, nightclubs must exercise reasonable care to prevent injury to their patrons and employees. This includes a duty to provide adequate security and supervision on its premises.
Example: A bartender in a Nevada bar sees a male customer pour something into Patricia’s drink while Patricia is in the bathroom. The bartender decides it’s none of his business. Patricia returns to the bar and finishes her drink. Later, the male customer leaves with her and sexually assaults her.
The bartender could have replaced Patricia’s drink or called security. Since he did neither, the club may be responsible for civil damages for the sexual assault, even though the actual harm was done by another customer.
For more in-depth information, refer to these scholarly articles:
- Danger on the Dance Floor: A Study of Interior Design, Crowding and Aggression in Nightclubs – Criminal Justice Press.
- The Law of Premises Liability in America: Its Past, Present, and Some Considerations for Its Future – Notre Dame Law Review.
- A little nightclub medicine: the healthcare implications of clubbing – Emergency Medicine Journal.
- Premises Liability – Drake Law Review.
- Can the Submission of a Premises Liability Case Be Simplified – Texas Tech Law Review.
- See Humphries v. New York-New York Hotel & Casino, (2017) 133 Nev. 607, 403 P.3d 358.
- See Rockwell v. Sun Harbor Budget Suites (1996) 112 Nev. 1217, 925 P.2d 1175.
- See Wood v. Safeway, Inc., (2005) 121 Nev. 724, 121 P.3d 1026.
- See note 2.
- See Title VII of The Civil Rights Act of 1964.
- See note 1.
- NRS 41.141.
- See Sanchez v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. (2009) 125 Nev. 818, 221 P.3d 1276.