Supreme Court halts litigious patron from suing pub again

The Supreme Court of South Australia has discouraged the appeal of an unfavourable verdict by a patron that sued a pub for falling off a chair drunk.

Justice Kevin Nicholson did not dismiss the appeal of Ms Schuller, but the ruling was another win for common sense as the Supreme Court judge held up an appeal by hoteliers S J Webb.

The appeal by the pub owners was based in the fact that the complainant was unable to pay bills from the first verdict (amounting to $109,000 plus interest) and could not reimburse their legal fees should she lose again.

Last year a District Court in South Australia ruled against Ms Schuller in her claim that the hotel had breached its duty of care by allowing her to (continue) dancing on furniture whilst drunk.Scales of justice_web

The single mother had previously been removed from the furniture twice, before falling and seriously injuring her knee.

Justice Nicholson reiterated the District Court’s findings the Ms Schuller “was owed [no] duty of care” and that even if successful her contributory negligence would lead to “a reduction in any award of damages to the extent of 90 per cent”.

He also commented Schuller’s “prospects of success are to be seen, at best, as moderate” and that damages – even if successful would likely be “relatively modest”.

However, as he “could not be satisfied Ms Schuller had no chance of succeeding in her appeal” he instead granted S J Webb’s application for security and ordered Schuller to front $15,000 security before any appeal could be granted.

South Australia’s Australian Hotels Association CEO Ian Horne told PubTIC the outcomes are a good sign for the scapegoating that has shrouded alcohol and the law.

“Both the District Court and Supreme Court decisions are refreshing in their frankness, the District Court acknowledging that there was no duty of care owed — and, even had there been, the woman ‘voluntarily’ danced on the chair,” said Horne.

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Ian Horne, AHA SA CEO

“The community has long ceased to accept excuses that somehow retailers, brewers or wine producers are to blame for people choosing to get behind the wheel of a vehicle when intoxicated. The drunk’s defence was long ago discredited as a justification for domestic violence.

“These Court decisions seem to reinforce the increasing community acceptance that adults make their own decisions that can have negative consequences. The same decision-making process could have just as easily avoided negative outcomes – as is the experience for the vast majority of people who drink, and do so responsibly.

“Licensed premises have extraordinary obligations and responsibilities in relation to responsible service, but that should never be seen as an excuse for adults to use that as justification for abdicating their personal responsibility, and accountability for their own wellbeing and safety.”


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