Break a leg, lose a lawsuit
Irish bar dancing tourist's case thrown out of court
By: Conn Corrigan and Meghan Sweeney | Published Tuesday, March 17, 2009, 7:26 PM | Updated Thursday, June 27, 2013, 8:08 PM
An Irish tourist who sued a New York pub after she injured herself while dancing on top of its bar has had her case dismissed by a Manhattan court.
It goes to show that once you step foot in the U.S., you’re prone to catching lawsuit fever.
Dubliner Valerie Morris was partying at the Red Rock Saloon, a dive bar on West 17th Street, while vacationing in New York in 2005. The bar has since closed down.
The bartenders at the Red Rock were known for enticing female bar-goers to dance on top of the bar. The bar also had “attractive” female bartenders who would also get up on top on the bar to shake their thing, said Steven Rosenfeld, a lawyer for the bar owner.
Morris, who had consumed two Jack 'n Coke's, was one of the women who duly obliged the bartenders, and along with a friend, got her groove on atop the bar.
In her deposition, Morris, who had been a regular visitor to New York, said that she had been to the bar on a previous trip. That time, she had also gotten up on the bar to dance – without crippling herself.
Moments later, Morris was lying in a heap behind the bar with a fractured ankle. Steven Rosenfeld said that her injury required surgery.
In her testimony, she said: “I tried to balance myself on the drinks area when I fell over, and I put my leg down and slipped, and I fell into the bar.”
Morris blamed the bar and its staff, saying that an employee got on a microphone and told her she “better get up and dance before the night is out.”
But as Justice Michael Stallman ruled, in New York, you dance at your own risk. In his decision, he wrote that Morris had "a full understanding of the consequences of her voluntary action.”
“Voluntary participants in activities where there is an elevated risk of danger, typically sporting and entertainment events,” the judge said, “may be held to have consented, by their participation, to those injury-causing events which are known, apparent or reasonably foreseeable consequences of the participation.”
In other words, if your sport of choice is bartop dancing, don't expect much sympathy if you injure yourself.
Rosenfeld said that the judge’s decision recognized that Morris knew the risks she was taking when she got up on top of the bar.
“She had done this on her own,” he explained.
Kenneth Halperin, Morris’s lawyer, did not respond to calls seeking comment.