Indiana’s Supreme Court is weighing whether to take up a lawsuit by West Virginia Del. Eric Porterfield over a 2006 parking lot brawl that left him blinded years before he was elected to office.
The Register-Herald of Beckley, West Virginia, reports that attorneys sparred on Tuesday over whether Cavanaugh’s Sports Bar & Eatery has an obligation to its patrons once they leave, and when that responsibility kicks in.
Porterfield was severely injured in a 3 a.m. fight that began when his friend made a comment to a female patron as the bar was closing and the crowd was leaving. The friend wound up fighting with the woman’s boyfriend and others. Porterfield got involved and had his eyes gouged.
Porterfield’s personal injury lawsuit claims the bar failed to take reasonable care for his safety.
The bar has been denied summary judgment by two lower Indiana courts. The Tuesday hearing was to consider whether to hear a full appeal of those rulings.
Lawyers for Cavanaugh’s claim the bar had no duty to protect Porterfield because its staff had no way of knowing patrons would become violent in the parking lot.
Chief Justice Loretta Rush asked about the bar’s two security guards.
“If they saw the fight go on, and then Mr. Porterfield got pummeled, would there be some assumption of duty while they were there?”
Cavanaugh’s attorney, Christopher Cody, responded that there was no indication the security guards saw the brawl. Moreover, he said, it happened quickly and surprised even the participants.
Porterfield’s lawyer, Leon Sarkisian, said prior fights should have alerted the bar’s owners to an ongoing problem. According to testimony, the fight was among five similar incidents at the bar.
Porterfield went on to move to Princeton, West Virginia, where he opened a religious organization called “Blind Faith Ministries.” In 2018, he was elected to the House of Delegates, becoming only the second blind person to serve in West Virginia’s Legislature.
Tuesday’s oral arguments, which were held at Parke Heritage High School in Rockville, may be viewed here. The case is Cavanaugh’s Sports Bar & Eatery, Ltd. v. Eric Porterfield, 18A-CT-01814.