In Bellevue v. Frenchy’s South Beach Cafe, Inc., So.3d , 38 FLW D2537 (Fla. 2nd DCA 12-4-2013), the 2nd DCA held that the trial judge was wrong in keeping evidence of the following prior incidents, some of which dated back four-and-a-half years before the subject incident, from the jury’s consideration in a barroom brawl case involving serious injuries:
- the night cook being stabbed in front of the restaurant after he got off work;
- multiple instances of patrons being kicked out of the bar for harassing employees, being vulgar, being rude, threatening employees, or being so drunk they fell off of a bar stool;
- patrons being kicked out for fighting;
- patrons drunk and fighting on the deck;
- a car being broken into in the parking lot;
- a minor in possession of alcohol who was armed with a knife out front;
- a near-fight between two patrons and a waiter;
- multiple instances of having to stop serving alcohol to patrons because they were “out of control”;
- multiple instances of drunk patrons being loud and vulgar or threatening; and
- the police having to be called because two patrons were about to fight.
In Florida premises liability cases, the plaintiff bears the initial burden of presenting competent and substantial evidence that the incident was reasonably foreseeable and the defendant failed to take reasonable measures to prevent it. The plaintiff in Bellevue tried to meet this burden by introducing evidence of sixty prior events, including the above listed. The court ruled that only those incidents “involving damage to persons or property” and “starting [on], ending [on], or involving the premises” would be admitted. As a result, only twelve of the sixty incidents were admitted.