Category Archives: Morgan & Barbary Lawfirm

Three Guys Walk Into a Bar…

Florida Supreme Court Finds Florida Man Liable for Drinking Buddy’s Injuries in the Case of Dorsey v. Reider

Three guys walk into a bar . . . is the start of many jokes, but things didn’t turn out so funny for Dennis Dorsey after a night out drinking with Robert Reider and Russell Noordhoek.   These three men were drinking together in a Florida bar in late August of 2007 when Reider became belligerent, saying that he wanted to fight everyone in the place.  Dorsey told Reider he was “acting like an a***hole” and left the bar. Reider and Noordhoek followed him out and Reider then trapped Dorsey between the bed of his truck and an adjacent car and demanded an explanation for Dorsey’s comment. As Dorsey and Reider argued, Noordhoek grabbed a tomahawk from Reider’s truck.  Upon seeing Noordhoek approach with the tomahawk, Dorsey attempted to escape by pushing Reider to the side, but Reider prevented him leaving. Noordhoek then bashed Dorsey in the head with the tomahawk, knocking him unconscious. Noordhoek and Reider immediately fled the scene.  Dorsey eventually regained consciousness and drove himself to an emergency room for treatment.

Dorsey eventually filed a lawsuit against Reider,  alleging that Reider owed him a duty of care to prevent Noordhoek from attacking him. Following a trial, the jury found that Reider was liable for Dorsey’s injuries and awarded him over $1.5 million. The case was appealed and overturned by the Third District Court of Appeals which found that Reider owed no duty to Dorsey to prevent the independent act by Noordhoek and there was no duty under Florida law to control the conduct of a third party or to prevent a third party from physically harming another person.

The case ultimately came before the Florida Supreme Court which reversed the appellate court’s decision and reinstated the jury verdict.  In its ruling, the Supreme Court held that although there is no general duty to prevent an assault by a third person, such a duty of care can be created if one’s actions create a “zone of risk” whereby it is foreseeable that injury could result. Applying the foreseeable zone of risk test, the Supreme Court determined that hindering someone’s “ability to escape an escalating situation created a foreseeable zone of risk posing a general threat of harm to others.”  In this case, the Court believed that Reider’s actions – trapping Dorsey between the cars and holding him while Noordhoek obtained his tomahawk –  created such a zone of risk and resulted in Reider’s damage.

A few things to take away from this case: First, never drink in a bar with a man that carries a tomahawk in his truck and likes to fight;  Second,  if your “friend” is telling you he wants to fight everyone in the place, it is time to seek out smarter friends; Third, when being accosted in a parking lot by drunks, it is always best to leave yourself a clear point of escape; and last, but not least, choose your “friends”  wisely.  A stupid friend might do more harm to you than a smart enemy.

Be safe out there.

Clay Morgan, Melbourne Lawyer, Partner & Esquire

Morgan and Barbary,

Personal Injury, Criminal Defence and Family Law Attorneys



Should I speak with an attorney before giving my statement to the Insurance carrier?

Hi, Clay Morgan here, of the Morgan and Barbary Law Firm in North Brevard County.

After someone has been in an auto accident, I am often asked whether it is acceptable to provide a recorded statement to the insurance carriers, before talking to an attorney. My advice is that it is always better err on the side of caution and talk with an attorney, before giving a recorded statement to an insurance provider or adjuster. An attorney can review the facts of your case with you, and help ensure the way that you state the facts allows for no misunderstandings about how the accident occurred or who was at fault.

I then often hear: “But Clay, you are an attorney. Everyone knows that attorneys known to twist the truth, but my insurance carrier would never do that. If I’m telling the truth, then there will be no problem… right?”.  Wrong.

Let me share a recent situation that occurred to my wife following an accident.  My wife accidentally ran into another vehicle.  She was driving down US-1 in the middle lane, when she glanced in her side mirror and changed into the right lane.  Unfortunately, she didn’t see the other smaller car coming up in her blind spot, and she ended up hitting the left front tire area.  There was quite a bit of vehicle damage but no one was injured.

My wife felt horrible. She apologized profusely to the other driver advising them the accident was her fault and not to worry.  A police officer came to the scene and she told him, unequivocally, that she was at fault in the accident. The policeman agreed and gave her a ticket for her actions.  I agreed with her she was at fault, and I assured the other driver that we had insurance that would pay for their property damage.  My wife then called our insurance carrier and told them directly that she was at fault in the accident, that she had in fact been ticketed for her action, and that she accepted liability for the accident… all in a recorded statement.

Imagine my surprise when I got a call from the other driver, telling me that my insurance carrier was claiming that he was 20% at fault in the accident. They informed him they were only going to pay 80% of his $5,000 in automobile damage, leaving him to come up with over $1,000 just to get his car fixed. I could not believe it, I immediately called my insurance adjuster who confirmed they put 20% liability on the other driver because: “he saw your wife coming into his lane and he should have taken evasive action to avoid the collision.” I asked to speak to his manager, and the manager repeated the same thing; the other driver should have avoided being hit by your wife.  This 20% ruling came from the fact that the other driver phrased his sentence in such a way, that admitted seeing my wife change lanes before she hit him. This gave them what they needed to say he had “comparative” fault of 20%. No amount of argument on my part could convince the insurance carrier that what they were doing was wrong.

The lesson to come out of this for everyone is: no matter how clear the liability against the other party, no matter how right you are, please make sure you talk to an attorney before giving any recorded statement.  The way your phrase a certain sentence can result in your being unjustly assessed for “comparative” fault, which could end up costing you money.  If the other driver had simply said, “I saw Ms. Morgan coming into my lane but it happened so fast, I had no time to react,” the carrier would have a much harder time finding him partially at fault.

People often think that giving a recorded statement is a simple matter. “The truth is the truth,” as my mother used to say, “and the truth will set you free.”  Unfortunately, in my experience, the truth can often be twisted by someone else who has a motive to save money.  Insurance companies always have a motive to save money. Protect yourself. Take the time to discuss the facts with an attorney before giving a recorded statement, as it might just save you time and trouble.

As always, if you have any questions or concerns following an accident, call my office to speak directly with an attorney about any legal questions you may have. Or, contact me through my website at  Don’t go it alone; we are here to help.


Think of Morgan & Barbary as Your Legal Problem Solvers

At Morgan & Barbary we have been your resource for legal representation in Melbourne, Florida for fifteen years. We are proud to serve Brevard County residents in need of several types of legal counsel including criminal defense, personal injury litigation, divorce, and family law. At Morgan & Barbary we are honored to serve our clients utilizing our combined 75 years of experience.

If you live in Brevard County and you are facing a legal issue, don’t hesitate to contact Morgan & Barbary. We understand that you may be going through a sensitive time and we will do what it takes to be supportive, available, and responsive to your needs. It is our goal to provide personable, ethical, accessible, and affordable legal representation. If you are embarking on an injury or wrongful death case there will be no attorney fee unless compensation is recovered. We can also devise payment plans regarding divorce and criminal defense situations.

If you’ve encountered legal trouble, or need the assistance of a legal expert, don’t grin and bear it alone. Contact your Melbourne, Florida attorneys for a free consultation.


Boating accident? Contact us!

The summer months mean more visitors, more time outdoors, and more time on the water. In Florida, the summer months also mean boating accidents and injuries. Did you know that under certain circumstances, you are required to report a boating accident to authorities? Your Melbourne FL attorney team at Morgan & Barbary can help.

You must report the accident or injury to police or coastal authorities when:

  • a boating accident that includes personal injury, death, the disappearance of any person, or
  • if there is damage to the vessel(s) or personal property of at least $2,000 (even if nobody is injured)

After reporting the accident, it is advisable that you speak with a boating accident attorney at our firm to learn about your legal entitlement. The accident could be due to someone’s negligence in maintaining their boat or marina, someone’s intoxication, or a manufacturing defect with the boat or safety equipment.

If you find yourself one of the hundreds of boaters injured on Florida’s rivers, lakes, and coasts each year, contact the team at Morgan & Barbary to solve your legal problem.


Division of retirement assets

Division of assets following divorce can be challenging and complex. At Morgan & Barbary, our Melbourne divorce attorney team is experienced at uncovering hidden assets and accounting for the multiple streams of income owed to our clients.

According to Florida law, any asset acquired during the course of a marriage is considered marital property and is therefore subject to division upon divorce. That means that if one spouse stays home with children or works part-time while the other contributes to a retirement account or pension plan as part of a full-time job, those retirement or pension savings are considered marital property and will be divided. This includes not only the monies paid into the accounts, but the interest that will be gained over time on the amounts paid in.

In many cases, a financial expert can examine the accounts and determine how funds should be distributed. Oftentimes, the spouse awarded a portion of their former partner’s assets will have a separate account set up so that the two parties don’t have to continue sharing the retirement funds and can manage them separately.

If you have questions about division of retirement assets, contact your Melbourne FL divorce attorney today for more information and a free consultation.