Imagine the following scenario. You turn up to a club with your friends. You are hoping for an enjoyable evening out. A scuffle takes place outside the club unconnected to you and, quite innocently, you find that you have been hit by an aggressive and overzealous bouncer. You end up in A&E with a broken nose. How do you complain?
- The obvious course of action is to complain to the police. This has the advantage of being free. The difficulty in practice is twofold. First, the police will not get you any compensation. Their job is to get people fined or put in prison. Secondly, the police are almost certain to do nothing other than in the most serious of cases. They will regard the whole story with some skepticism and are more often driven by inertia in cases of this kind.
- If the establishment in question is half respectable you should write a carefully crafted letter to the owner. My experience of clubs is that their attitude will be similar to that of the police and they will be very defensive. They will take the view that their bouncers are always in the right unless and until the contrary is proven. They will not rush to admit liability.
- Accordingly, the only way to force the hand of the club is to sue it in your local county court. The bouncer, as an employee will expose the club to what is called vicarious liability ie. responsibility for the acts of those who do bad things for the company in the course of their employment. The club will not relish litigation for a number of reasons (a) It is time-consuming and expensive to deal with (b) If you limit your claim to £5000 the club cannot recover its legal costs even if it wins so it will be highly motivated to settle (c) The club will not welcome the prospect of adverse publicity which your local paper will doubtless seize upon.
- Another course of action is to report the club to those in charge of licensing it at your local authority. If you couple a complaint of this kind with an action in the small claims court that may well be enough to encourage the club into an early settlement agreement.