Lawyer Sues Bar After Bouncers Sever His Pinkie Finger

A Virginia attorney is filing a lawsuit against a popular Washington DC bar after the bouncers allegedly severed his pinkie finger when they forcibly ejected him from the premises.  Robert Dyer of Arlington went to Smith Point bar and restaurant at 1:30 AM in September of 2011 after having consumed several drinks earlier in the evening.   After drinking a beer and 3 shots of Vodka, Mr. Dyer's behavior required his forcible ejection from the bar, and he was injured when bouncers allegedly slammed his finger in the door. 

Mr. Dyer’s pinkie finger was severed, and doctors were unable to reattach it.  According to the Washington City Paper, Mr. Dyer did not even realize his finger was severed until a police officer pointed it out to him while he was withdrawing money from an ATM nearby. In his recently filed lawsuit, Mr. Dyer is suing the Smith Point bar for medical expenses, loss of earnings, permanent disability, lost employment opportunity, and permanent dis-figuration. 

Personal injury law places legal responsibility onto employers for the actions of employees if the employee was “acting within the scope of their employment.”  In this case, ejecting a drunk patron is within the “scope of employment” for a bouncer.  Although the bouncers may have acted excessively, they were engaging in behavior expected of them and their position.  Had the bouncers pursued Mr. Dyer after he left the bar and inflicted more damage, Smith Point could argue they were no longer acting within the scope of their employment.  However, the act of removing an intoxicated Mr. Dyer from the bar is expected from a bouncer, and the bar can be sued for any damages that occur during that process.

This case is interesting because the plaintiff is clearly not blameless in his injury.  Mr. Dyer was very intoxicated at the time of this incident, and his own behavior led to the situation that required his forcible removal from the bar.   In a personal injury lawsuit, a plaintiff that contributes to his injury may cost himself a chance to recover money for his injuries.  Local law will determine the exact rules, but if a plaintiff contributes to his harm then a court may determine that the damages he is owed are less than he requests, or that he has not basis to file a claim. 

Mr. Dyer is prepared to counter the argument that he contributed to his injury by redirecting part of the blame for his intoxication to the bar.  In part of the lawsuit, Mr. Dyer’s attorney claims that the bar should have recognized that the young man was visibly intoxicated when he entered the bar, and should not have served him.  Arguments like this, while often met with eye rolling from the general public, can be successful depending on the law in DC and the facts of this case - if Mr. Dyer was so visibly intoxicated such that he presented a danger to himself or others, then the court may buy into an argument that he should not have been served.  In an effort to prevent alcohol related injuries and accidents, bartenders and bars have been held to increasingly high standards to refuse service to individuals who are clearly at a point where they do not need anything else to drink.

While Mr. Dyer certainly contributed to his injury, he still has a claim against the bar for the activities of its bouncers.  Regardless of how drunk he was, severing a finger is not something that can be done without consequences.  Unless the facts reveal that Mr. Dyer was actively fighting the bouncers, and during the course of that fight the door slammed on his hand, it is likely the bar will be legally liable for his injuries.  Mr. Dyer may not be able to recover the full amount of damages he feels he is owed because of his drunken condition, but it is likely he will get some sort of recovery.

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