The Indiana Supreme Court has dismissed West Virginia Delegate Eric Porterfield’s lawsuit over a bar fight that left him blind 14 years ago.
In a 3-2 decision March 3, the high court ruled that managers of Cavanaugh’s Sports Bar & Eatery couldn’t have foreseen the December 2006 parking lot brawl between Porterfield and a friend.
“We praise the Lord for the conclusion of this part of our life,” Porterfield, a Republican minister from Mercer County, said Wednesday. “We are disappointed in the ruling that the Supreme Court laid down that this event was unforeseeable when they had five other incidents within a calendar year, but we take the good with the bad and move forward.”
Lake Superior Court Judge Bruce Parent denied a motion by Cavanaugh’s to dismiss the case in 2019. An appeals court upheld that ruling.
Porterfield’s lawyers argued that other fights before his should have prompted the bar to take steps to prevent altercations like the one that cost him his sight.
The high court sided with the bar.
“The skirmish occurred suddenly and without warning: for hours before the fracas, Porterfield and his friend socialized with bartenders and had no animosity with any other customers,” Justice Mark Massa wrote in the majority opinion. “Indeed, no evidence suggests any tension in the bar before the fight.”
During oral arguments Oct. 22, 2019, all parties generally agreed that Porterfield, who was sober at the time, threw the first punch after his friend made a comment about a woman in the parking lot after the bar closed. The woman’s boyfriend and his friends confronted Porterfield’s friend.
Cavanaugh’s has been closed since.
The case brought to light how Porterfield lost his sight when he was 32. Shortly after he was elected to his first term in the House, Porterfield declined to explain when the Gazette-Mail asked in a 2018 interview.
During his first legislative session, Porterfield using the word “f****t” during a committee meeting and referred to the LBGTQ community as “a modern-day version of the Ku Klux Klan.”
During the 2020 session, Porterfield accused another delegate of aggressively confronting him after a committee meeting. He attempted to stall legislative proceedings in the House a day later when majority leaders declined to punish the other delegate. Porterfield later apologized for the stalling tactics.