An all in brawl erupted at a New Years Eve event at a reception centre after two women on the dance-floor got into a fight over a cigarette. During that brawl, one man was hit in the face by another. That man left the premises and returned later with a gun. He shot an innocent bystander in the leg despite that man pleading for his safety. The gunman then located the man who had earlier struck him in the face and shot that man in the stomach.
The gunshot victims both commenced personal injury claims against the owners of the reception centre alleging that they were negligent in not providing any or sufficient security during the function. Those claims were successful in the New South Wales District Court and Court of Appeal.
The case was ultimately appealed to the High Court where the owners of the reception centre argued that they did not owe a duty to prevent criminal conduct by third parties and further if they did, it had not been shown that the reasonable response to the risk would have been to employ security personnel.
The High Court considered the Civil Liability Act and the Liquor Act and concluded that the restaurant owners did owe "a duty to take reasonable care to prevent injury to patrons from the violent, quarrelsome or disorderly conduct of other persons", particularly as these were licensed premises.
However, the Court was not prepared to find that the reception centre had been negligent. The Court noted that there is "always a risk that there will be some altercation between patrons" and that risk is even higher where patrons are consuming alcohol. However, unless the provision of security was a reasonable precaution in response to that risk, the failure to do so would not be a breach of the relevant duty.
Further, the Court said the victims had not established that the presence of security either at the door or in the venue would have deterred or prevented re-entry to the premises 'of a man armed with a gun when later events showed he was ready and willing to use the weapon on persons unconnected with his evident desire for revenge'. As the victims could not show that the absence of security personnel resulted in them being shot, their claims were dismissed. Adeels Palace Pty Ltd and Moubarak; Adeels Palace Pty Ltd and Bou Najem  HCA 48
The High Court remains reluctant to hold occupiers liable in negligence for the deliberate criminal acts committed by other people.