Pub fights - who is liable?

07 SEP 2023


Recently, the Supreme Court of NSW had to consider whether a pub and security company could be found liable for the physical assault of a patron which left him unconscious and permanently injured.

Normally, a person and/or legal entity cannot be held liable for the actions of another, but this situation is not always straightforward.



A male patron at The Bucket List Bondi, Mr Chadwick, was beaten unconscious by another patron, Mr Martin. According to witnesses and CCTV footage, Mr Martin was verbally harassing the Plaintiff and his group, particularly by commenting on their appearance. Mr Chadwick then verbally antagonised Mr Martin, and gave the first shove, before trying to punch him. Following this, Mr Martin picked up a bar stool and beat Mr Chadwick, even continuing to beat him when he was lying unconscious on the ground. Mr Chadwick suffered permanent physical and psychological injuries and disabilities.

Mr Chadwick claimed that the venue and the security company were negligent, because they both failed to ensure that Mr Martin and his group of friends were either brought under control, or evicted from the pub. Mr Chadwick argued that if this had occurred, the assault would never have taken place. He also alleged that both the pub and security company failed to intervene during the altercation between the two patrons, allowing the situation to escalate and result in extreme violence.

Both Defendants argued that they were not liable, because regardless of how intoxicated Mr Martin and his friends were, they were not on notice, and could not have foreseen, that he would have been violent. They also submitted that Mr Chadwick could have walked away from the confrontation, but failed to do so, and thus contributed to the escalation of the situation.



The Court noted that because the pub had engaged a security company, the venue was obviously aware, and on notice, that there was a risk of violence and that precautions needed to be taken. It also noted that the main role of the security company was to take such precautions, and mitigate the risk of violence and injury amongst patrons.

The Court also found that Mr Martin and his group should have come to the attention of the venue and security guards, who should have then controlled, restrained or evicted the entire group. There was also evidence that there was insufficient security staff on site. As such, both Defendants were found liable by the Court. Each Defendant was held to be equally responsible, because the security company provided insufficient staff, and the venue permitted itself to function with inadequate security.

The Court also found that Mr Chadwick contributed to his own injuries, as he did not take any reasonable action to walk away or diffuse the situation. His damages were therefore reduced by 20%.

Mr Chadwick was awarded a total of $250,883.00, which was reduced by 20% to $200,706.40.

For more information on the above contact Joe Bonura on (02) 4626 5077 or 


The contents of this publication are for reference purposes only. This publication does not constitute legal advice and should not be relied upon as legal advice. Specific legal advice should always be sought separately before taking any action based on this publication.

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