Monday, September 24, 2012

Failure to Separate Fighting Restaurant Patrons Leads to Verdict

I am currently handling a negligent security lawsuit against a Pittsburgh restaurant for severe facial injuries sustained by my client as a result of an assault that occurred both inside and outside of the restaurant.  We feel that the security provided by the restaurant to protect its patrons was inadequate and responded to the fight in which my client was badly injured in an unreasonable fashion.  As I have stated many times prior, I always like to research publish verdicts of similar cases that have gone to trial in Pennsylvania over the years.  Sometimes I have to go far back in time to locate facts remotely similar to what I am dealing with.

Such is the case with the negligent security lawsuit of Laine vs. Banai d/b/a Angie's Bar a 1995 case (I was 18 at the time this case was tried).

This consolidated action was brought by the two male plaintiffs, both in their 20's, against the defendant bar and the bar patrons who assaulted the plaintiffs. The plaintiffs contended that the bar failed to provide adequate security which would have prevented the assaults and served alcohol to underage and visibility intoxicated patrons.

The first defendant, who allegedly struck the first plaintiff with a beer bottle, died in an unrelated automobile accident prior to trial and his estate settled for an undisclosed sum. The second defendant patron was in default at trial.

As is the standard line of business establishments who profit from selling alcohol to members of the public, the defendant bar argued that it was not responsible for the acts of third parties which took place outside the bar.

The plaintiffs testified that they were playing pool with the two individual defendants, an altercation took place and the two defendants and the plaintiffs were expelled from the defendant's bar by the barmaid. Once outside the bar, the plaintiffs allege that the defendants hit the first plaintiff in the head with a beer bottle, beat the plaintiffs and kicked them while they were on the ground.

The plaintiffs contended that the defendant bar lacked adequate security, should not have thrown the defendants and plaintiffs out of the bar at the same time and served the defendants alcohol when they were underage and visibility intoxicated.

The plaintiff's medical experts testified that the first plaintiff sustained a fractured skull in the incident requiring a microplate insertion, transection of the right supraorbital nerve and two nerve blocks. The first plaintiff's medical expenses were approximately $ 30,000. The second plaintiff sustained a large hyphema to the left eye and his medical expenses were approximately $ 13,000, according to evidence offered. Both plaintiffs also claimed to suffer multiple soft tissue injuries related to the incident.

The defendant bar denied that it served alcohol to underage or intoxicated patrons. However, the barmaid on duty admitted that she did not ask the defendants for proof of their age on the night in question. The defendant asserted that the plaintiffs started the altercation and that the bar was not responsible for the fight which took place outside the establishment.

The jury found the defendant patrons 80% negligent and the defendant bar 20% negligent. The first plaintiff was awarded $140,000 and the second plaintiff was awarded $50,000. William Penrod of Tucker Arensberg tried this case for the plaintiff and I am guessing that back in 1995 this was a great verdict for this case.  It was also nice for the plaintiffs as this verdict came 15 years before PA's Fair Share Act.  As such, there were able to recover their entire verdict amount from the bar's insurance company.

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