Patron can sue bar for "nearly severed" fingers
Olga Hererra was assisted by a bouncer at the Tonic Night Club, LLC, up on to a box near the dance floor where she wanted to dance. She reached up to steady herself by grasping a corrugated steel wall, and when she pulled her hand back her fingers were nearly severed by a deep laceration. Hererra sued arguing that Romp Entertainment, owner of the bar, knew or should have known of this unsafe condition and remedied it. The trial court held that the bar owners did not create the condition and had no reason to discover it, even though it was a danger to which numerous patrons had been exposed. Hererra's claim was summarily dismissed and she appealed.
Noting that patrons regularly danced on "the box", and that its president acknowledged familiarity with the "open, bare" edge which a dancer could foreseeably grasp, the Court of Appeals reversed the lower court's summary disposition. Hererra's attorneys had presented the evidence of a licensed builder to document the unreasonable risk of harm presented by a corrugated sheet metal edge exposed to customer activity and the Court recognized, yet again, that a premises owner cannot automatically avoid liability for the first injury caused by a potentially unsafe condition: the jury will have to decide whether the bar's conduct was reasonable. One of the judges emphasized the bar owner/premises' owner's duty to take reasonable steps "to discover" an unsafe condition before inviting the public on to a commercial location.