West Virginia delegate loses suit blaming bar for blindness

GARY, Ind. (AP) — The Indiana Supreme Court has ruled against a lawsuit filed by a West Virginia delegate over a 2006 parking lot brawl that left him blinded years before he was elected to office.

The lawsuit said Cavanaugh’s Sports Bar & Eatery, near Gary, Indiana, had an obligation to protects its patrons inside the bar and outside, especially because fights were foreseeable.

The Supreme Court disagreed in a 3-2 vote last week, The Bluefield Daily Telegraph reported.

Del. Eric Porterfield was severely injured in a 3 a.m. fight in 2006 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.

The lawsuit said the bar failed to take reasonable care for Porterfield’s safety, especially since five similar fights happened in the parking area in the last year.

The judgement summary said Cavanaugh couldn’t foresee a bar patron blinding another patron during a sudden fight. It said Porterfield and his friend were socializing at the bar with the bartenders and no customers showed animosity toward them and vice versa.

“Indeed, no evidence suggests any tension in the bar before the fight,” the summary said.

On Monday, Porterfield said he was disappointed with the decision.

Porterfield was elected to the House of Delegates in 2018, becoming only the second blind person to serve in West Virginia’s Legislature. He also opened a religious organization called “Blind Faith Ministries.” Porterfield drew heavy criticism last year for repeated homophobic language and likening LGBTQ groups to “a modern day version of the Ku Klux Klan.”

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