Night and Day Management, LLC v. Butler
August 5, 2020
While in the VIP section of Fur Factory Nightclub, one of the Plaintiffs knocked over a bottle of vodka belonging to another patron and an altercation ensued. Plaintiffs filed suit against Night and Day Management, LLC, the owner of Fur Factory Nightclub, and its principal, claiming that the nightclub was negligent in not providing adequate security. Plaintiffs alleged that security personnel did not arrive until after the fight was over and the surveillance cameras in the nightclub were not working.
The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of Defendants and the D.C. Court of Appeals affirmed because plaintiffs failed to provide evidence of the applicable standard of care. The Court held that expert testimony is required to establish the standard of care in negligence cases involving issues of safety, security, and crime prevention as this is beyond the common knowledge of the average layperson. Plaintiffs in this case did not produce any evidence of the number of personnel on duty at the time of the incident, where they were located, or why they did not intervene. The Court further opined that even assuming there were no security guards or cameras in the VIP section, these facts alone do not establish a standard of care. The Court concluded that an expert was required to testify to a standard of care in this case.
Alternatively, Plaintiffs argued that the applicable standard of care could be derived from D.C. Code Section 25-402, which requires nightclubs to submit a security plan along with their liquor license application. The Court disagreed, finding that although this statute does require a plan, the specifics of the plan are within the discretion of the nightclub. Plaintiffs also urged the Court to consider that the standard of care was set forth in Defendant’s contract with the Advisory Neighborhood Commission of Washington, D.C., which requires that the nightclub have security. The Court held, however, that the agreement was insufficient because it did not provide any specific detail or requirement as to how security is to be arranged.