436 So.2d 33 (Fla. 1983), 61651, Stevens v. Jefferson

Docket Nº:61651.
Citation:436 So.2d 33
Party Name:James STEVENS, Jr., Petitioner, v. Patricia JEFFERSON, as Personal Representative of the Estate of Earl Sidney Jefferson, Sr., Deceased, Respondent.
Case Date:June 02, 1983
Court:Supreme Court of Florida

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436 So.2d 33 (Fla. 1983)

James STEVENS, Jr., Petitioner,


Patricia JEFFERSON, as Personal Representative of the Estate

of Earl Sidney Jefferson, Sr., Deceased, Respondent.

No. 61651.

Supreme Court of Florida.

June 2, 1983

Rehearing Denied Sept. 9, 1983.

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Robert L. Appleget, Jr. of Black, Meffert, Landt, Appleget & Wiechens, Ocala, for petitioner.

William H. Phelan, Jr. of Bond, Arnett & Phelan, Ocala, for respondent.

John F. Bennett of Fishback, Davis, Dominick & Bennett, Orlando, for the Florida Restaurant Association; and Dennis E. LaRosa, Tallahassee, for Independent Beverage Dealers, Inc., amici curiae.

McDONALD, Justice.

We accepted jurisdiction in this cause because the per curiam affirmance [*] by the district court indicated contrary authority. We have jurisdiction pursuant to article V, section 3(b)(3) of the state constitution.

Earl Sidney Jefferson was shot and killed in a bar by a fellow patron. Stevens owned and operated the bar. Jefferson's widow alleged and proved that previously there had been numerous shootings and fights in the bar, that the owner had failed to train or equip employees to maintain order, and that no security personnel had been employed when the owner knew or should have known that his patrons were being exposed to risk of harm from fights or shootings by other patrons. In effect Mrs. Jefferson showed that Stevens either created a dangerous condition or allowed one to exist by the manner in which he ran his establishment. She did not allege, however, that Stevens knew of any dangerous propensities of Jefferson's assailant, and Stevens contends that Jefferson cannot prevail because of that lack of knowledge. We disagree.

The proprietor of a place of public entertainment owes his invitee a duty to use due care to maintain his premises in a reasonably safe condition commensurate with the activities conducted thereon. Central Theatres, Inc. v. Wilkinson, 154 Fla. 589, 18 So.2d 755 (1944). We have stated that the proprietor of a liquor saloon, although not an insurer of his patrons' safety, is bound to use every reasonable effort to maintain order among his patrons, employees, or those who come upon the premises and are likely to produce disorder to the injury or inconvenience of patrons lawfully in his place of business. Miracle v. Kriens, 160 Fla. 48, 33 So.2d 644 (1948). A determination as to whether this duty has been violated will, of necessity, depend upon a review of the facts of each individual case. Additionally, the risk of harm must be foreseeable. This foreseeability requirement has often been met by proving that the proprietor knew or should have known of the dangerous propensities of a particular patron. See, e.g., Sabatelli v. Omni International Hotels, Inc., 379 So.2d 444 (Fla. 3d DCA 1980). But specific knowledge of a dangerous individual is not the exclusive method of proving foreseeability. It can be shown by proving that a proprietor knew or should have known of a dangerous condition on his premises that was likely to cause harm to a patron. Fernandez v. Miami Jai Alai, Inc., 386 So.2d 4 (Fla. 3d DCA 1980).

To affix liability against a tavern owner for injuries to patrons intentionally inflicted by third parties, a risk of harm to his patrons must be reasonably foreseeable, and the weight of authority, both in this state and elsewhere, supports a standard of reasonable foreseeability. See, e.g., Sparks v. Ober, 192 So.2d 81 (Fla. 3d DCA 1966); Industrial Park Businessmen's Club, Inc. v. Buck, 252 Ark. 513, 479 S.W.2d 842 (1972);

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Kerby v. Flamingo Club, Inc., 35 Colo.App. 127, 532 P.2d 975 (1974); Gorby v. Yeomans, 4 Mich.App. 339, 144 N.W.2d 837 (1966); Tyrrell v. Quigley, 186 Misc. 972, 60 N.Y.S.2d 821 (N.Y.Sup.Ct.1946); Waldron v. Hammond, 71 Wash.2d 361, 428 P.2d 589 (1967). Although knowledge of a particular assailant's propensity for violence is often found to be evidence of foreseeability in these cases, we reject the contention advanced by amicus curiae here that proof of foreseeability should be limited by law to evidence...

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