(CN) – The 7th Circuit reinstated an Illinois woman’s negligence claim against a sports bar where she got drunk and left with two “regulars” who allegedly tried to rape her. She said bartenders told her that no taxis were available and that she needed to get a ride from someone at the bar.
Loretta Reynolds said she asked a bartender at Jerzey’s Sports Bar in O’Fallon, Ill., to call her a cab back to her hotel, but the bartender told her that no taxis were available and that she would need to get a ride from someone in the bar.
Brenda Russell and Casey Carson offered to give Reynolds a ride, but before they left, they bought her several drinks “in an attempt to lure her to their apartment for sexual exploitation,” Russell claimed.
“Reynolds also alleged that Russell and Carson may have slipped some kind of drug into her drinks,” according to the ruling.
After they left the bar, “Reynolds realized at some point during the car ride that they were not driving toward her hotel and that Russell and Carson intended to rape her,” the ruling states.
She escaped while Russell and Carson were buying cigarettes and tried to walk back to her hotel. Because she was still heavily intoxicated, she walked onto a highway on-ramp and was hit by a car.
Reynolds sued Russell, Carson and the bar’s owner, CB Sports Bar. She obtained a $1.5 million default judgment against Carson and dropped her claims against Russell.
A federal judge also dismissed her negligence claims against CB Sports, ruling that the bar could not have foreseen the dangerous situation.
On appeal, Reynolds argued that CB Sports’ bartenders “knew or should have known” that Russell and Carson were getting her drunk in order to sexually exploit her. At worst, she claimed, the bar was an “active accomplice in the attempt to ensnare plaintiff Loretta Reynolds into an unsavory and unwelcome sexual situation.”
She said two bartenders refused to provide her a phone book to call a taxi, and both vouched for Russell and Carson, saying the pair were “regulars” and “they would be okay.”
The federal appeals court in Chicago voted 2-1 to revive the negligence claims against the bar, saying Reynolds’ complaint “is broad enough to encompass a viable theory of negligence against CB Sports.”
Judge Michael Kanne acknowledged that a bar’s liability generally ends once a patron leaves the premises, but said the bar had a duty to protect Reynolds if its bartenders knew about the shady plan.
“Assuming as true that the bartender knew of Russell and Carson’s criminal purposes, we must conclude that the subsequent unrealized criminal attack on Reynolds was reasonably foreseeable to CB Sports,” Kanne wrote.
The majority remanded for a ruling on whether the bartenders knew about the plan.
In the dissenting opinion, Judge Kenneth Ripple said the bar can’t be held liable for its bartenders’ actions.
Extending liability to CB Sports would place an unreasonable burden on bars, Ripple said, potentially overstepping the boundaries established by the Illinois Supreme Court.
“It is not our place to extend legal liability beyond the boundaries set by the state,” he wrote.