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Liability for a bar Fight is not an Extension of Dram Shop Law

Troxel v. Iguana Cantina, LLC, et al.
No. 820 (Court of Special Appeals, October 3, 2011)

by Gregory L. Arbogast, Associate
Semmes, Bowen & Semmes (

In Troxel v. Iguana Cantina, LLC, the Court of Special Appeals held that a negligence suit against a bar for a bar fight is a permissible premises liability claim. In upholding the claim, the Court held that a bar’s liability for a bar fight is not tantamount to a “dram shop” claim, liability for which does not exist in Maryland.

Troxel arose out of an altercation in which Plaintiff sustained serious and multiple injuries. On September 25 to 26, 2008, Plaintiff attended a “college night” at Iguana Cantina. “College night” is a party that is marketed to college students in which Iguana Cantina opens its doors to 18 to 21 year-olds along with its usual 21 and older crowd. Iguana Cantina does not officially permit the 18 to 21 year-olds to consumer alcohol; though, its employees are well aware that many of the 18 to 21 year-olds circumvent the rule and consume alcohol. Plaintiff was under 21 at the time of the incident.

While Plaintiff attended the “college night,” he was involved in an altercation with three (3) unknown parties. Assuming the facts in the light most favorable to Defendants, Plaintiff pushed a young woman to the ground. Three (3) unknown assailants then assaulted Plaintiff in retaliation for his violence. The assailants knocked Plaintiff to the ground and continued to kick him while he was on the ground. Baltimore City Police Officers rendered aid to Plaintiff, and he was eventually taken to the hospital.

Plaintiff alleges that Iguana Cantina is liable for Plaintiff’s injuries because Iguana Cantina was negligent in its security on “college night.” Plaintiff argued that Iguana Cantina had experienced numerous instances of violence on “college nights;” and therefore, Iguana Cantina was on sufficient notice that it needed to protect its patrons from bar fights. Defendants argued that Plaintiff’s lawsuit was tantamount to creating dram shop liability, which does not exist in Maryland. Defendants filed a Motion for Summary Judgment on the dram shop issue, as well as causation, which the trial court granted. Plaintiff appealed.

The Court of Special Appeals addressed the issue of whether Plaintiff’s claims were akin to a premises liability case — which is permitted in Maryland — or a dram shop case — for which no liability exists under Maryland law. The Court of Special Appeals held that Plaintiff’s claims were akin to a premises liability case. Therefore, the Court of Special Appeals overturned the trial court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of Defendants. The Court held that the jury was entitled to determine whether Defendants’ negligence caused or contributed to Plaintiff’s injuries.