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Bar can be sued for failing to protect man from racist attack

exterior photo of a bar, BS & Co in wolverine, MI

The owners of a Cheboygan County bar can be sued for failing to protect a patron from racist assaults on the sidewalk in front of the business. That decision came from this week from the Michigan Court of Appeals.

The two assaults occurred outside B.S. & Co. in Wolverine. Details that were part of the written opinion say the victim stopped by the bar to pick up a pizza and was taunted by a patron, who used the “n” word, followed him outside and punched him unconscious.

Edward James Tyson suffered brain damage from the assaults that occurred in 2015.

The bar owner argued the business isn’t liable since the assault took place on the sidewalk outside. The sidewalk in front of the bar was used by customers to smoke and listen to live music from a park across the street.

The appeals court disagreed and held that’s a matter to be settled in court, writing in the opinion:

“A reasonable jury could conclude that because defendant’s bar patrons congregated out front on the sidewalk on bike nights and flowed in and out of the bar on a regular basis while temporarily leaving their drinks at the bar, the area around the front entrance was effectively defendant’s premises.”

The court ruled it’s fair to ask whether the bar staff had a duty to at least call the police, which no one did. The decision allows the lawsuit to go to trial.

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Rick Pluta is Senior Capitol Correspondent for the Michigan Public Radio Network. He has been covering Michigan’s Capitol, government, and politics since 1987.