So held the Minnesota Supreme Court this week. And we think that most people would agree that “going to a bar” is not synonymous with “getting into a fist-fight.” Bars ≠ fighting arenas.
On the other hand, we all know what a “bar fight” is. In other words, although bars ≠ fighting arenas, fights in bars are common enough that this combination of words is common-place and maybe universally understood (compare: “barbershop fight,” “pet store fight,” or “fitness club fight”?). (So maybe bars ∈ fighting arenas?)
The case involved drunken patrons who knocked a man, Mr. Maxwell Henson, down to the ground outside the bar. His head hit the curb and he died. There was some irony in the two defenses of the bar which we might paraphrase like this: (1) bar fights are so common that it is just a risk everyone takes that they might be injured or killed when they go to a bar (“implied primary assumption of risk”); and (2) Mr. Henson’s death was so unexpected and so unforeseeable that the bar cannot be held liable for this terrible but freak accident. (Here is an earlier post on “the enigma of foreseeability.”)