Premises Liability – Assault by Bar Bouncer on Patrons
We represented a 19-year-old man his 21-year-old brother who were assaulted by a bar bouncer at a local establishment in Pennsylvania. The 19-year-old was permitted access to the bar and consumed alcohol without being asked for identification. After several hours, the 19-year-old and his 21-year-old brother became involved in an altercation inside the bar with 2 of the bar’s bouncers. The bouncers took them outside the bar and proceeded to assault them. The 19-year-old was thrown through a plate glass window of a bakery next to the bar and suffered a serious laceration. When the police arrived, the bouncers reported that my clients assaulted them and broke the plate glass window in an act of vandalism. My clients were both arrested and charged with criminal mischief and destruction of property. Based on this, the bakery’s insurance company contacted us and requested payment for a new plate glass window.
We immediately began an investigation into the matter and learned that the bakery had a video surveillance system that was recording at 1:30 a.m. when the incident occurred. When we reviewed the video with the Bakery’s representative, we could clearly see that one of the bar’s bouncers was assaulting our 19-year-old client in front of the bakery and then picked him up and threw him through the plate glass window. We immediately provided a copy of the video to the police. Once the police reviewed the video, they dismissed the criminal charges against our clients and filed charges against the bouncer for filing a false police report. We then filed a civil suit against the bar for the assault committed against our clients, including a request for punitive damages. In that suit, we learned that the bouncer in question had a prior criminal conviction for assault. The bar’s insurance company confidentially settled with us for a substantial sum after we presented them with the criminal record for the bouncer to demonstrate to them that our negligent hiring and negligent supervision cause of action was well grounded in fact.
Kelly Repko v. Chichester School District, Court of Common Pleas, Delaware County, Pennsylvania, Case No.: 04-6979
Type of Case: Student Injured on School Property
Kelly Repko was injured at Chichester High School when a stage riser left in the gym leaning against the bleachers fell on her leg. Ms. Repko was a student participating in gym class at the time of the injury. Her medical bills were approximately $3,500. Ms. Repko suffered a scar on the back of her Achilles tendon as a result of the injury. The Repko family contacted Chris Heavens because they felt that the school district’s insurance company was treating them unfairly. The insurance company refused to make a settlement offer to Mr. Heavens and a lawsuit was filed. At trial, Ms. Repko testified about the pain, discomfort and limitations created by her foot injury and about her future ambition to be a nurse. Ms. Repko’s foot doctor testified at trial about how Ms. Repko’s foot injury had impacted her in the past and would impact her in the future, particularly her career as a nurse. Result: $250,000 Jury Verdict*.
Counsel: Christopher J. Heavens, Boothwyn, PA
Worker Injured on Loading Dock – $573,000 Verdict
On May 28, 2015, our client, Paul Michalec, was an invitee on the premises of Defendant, American Supply, Inc. (“American Supply”). Mr. Michalec worked for Hampton Inn and Hampton Inn paid American Supply to store hotel supplies at their warehouse. While Mr. Michalec was loading Hampton Inn supplies onto a rented box truck with his co-worker, Ronald Love, the dock plate that acted as a bridge between the dock and the truck bed collapsed from underneath Mr. Michalec, resulting in Mr. Michalec falling from the loading dock to the ground below. Mr. Michalec injured his leg and back. He needed stitches to close a cut and had to have an arthroscopic surgery on his knee to repair a torn meniscus. At the time of trial in July of 2017, Mr. Michalec was still treating for back problems.
American Supply and its insurance company blamed Mr. Michalec and his co-worker for the incident. They hired Jody Demarco of Forensic Consultants of North America as a safety expert. We hired Stephen Petty of EES Engineering Services as a safety expert. DeMarco opined that Mr. Michalec’s failure to use tire chocks was the cause of the incident. Mr. DeMarco theorized that the truck pulled away from the loading dock during loading, resulting in the dock plate slipping. Mr. DeMarco blamed Mr. Michalec for not checking the front wheels on his truck. Our expert, Mr. Petty, opined that the improper use of tire ramps by American Supply resulted in the truck sitting substantially lower than the dock, resulting in the dock plate being angled severely and sliding off the dock.
At trial, we were able to get the owner of American Supply to admit that he could not identify anything Mr. Michalec did wrong. We were also able to get the owner of the company to admit that his company did not follow the instructions on the tire ramps that they required customers to use during the loading process. The failure to follow the instructions on the tire ramps was a critical issue in the case because it resulted in the truck sitting lower and a more severe angle in the placement of the dock plate.
As for damages, American Supply and its insurance company asserted that most of Mr. Michalec’s injuries were due to preexisting conditions. However, we were able to get their medical expert, Dr. Joseph Bernstein, to acknowledge that he had no substantial criticism of Mr. Michalec’s treating doctors and that he could not say that Mr. Michalec’s continuing complaints of knee and back problems were not legitimate.
After a one-week trial in Philadelphia County, the jury returned a verdict of $573,000 in favor of Mr. Michalec. The jury assessed 100% of the fault against American Supply. The verdict was immediately paid and no appeal was filed.
Stock v. El Vez – Inadequate Security – Premises Liability
On or about November 7, 2010, our client was a business invitee of the Defendants’ restaurant and bar. Our client was assaulted by another patron (hereinafter sometimes referred to as “assailant”) inside of Defendants’ bar, while the Defendant’s and/or their employees/agents looked on. Prior to the assault, the assailant had been mingling in the Defendant’s bar and panhandling patrons of the Defendant’s bar. At the time of the assault, our client was coming to the assistance of a friend who was being manhandled and assaulted by the assailant inside of the Defendant’s bar.
After we were retained, we obtained all police reports and 911 call records associated with the Defendant’s business location. We learned that aggressive panhandling had been occurring there and that patrons had complained prior to the incident involving our client. We retained a security consultant to review our case and he provided a report that outlined what he believed to be the inadequate security issues at the Defendant’s business that caused or contributed to the incident involving our client.
During the assault, our client received a severe blow to his face that knocked his teeth out and resulted in a large laceration above his lip requiring over thirty (30) stitches. The blow to his face caused our client to lose consciousness and resulted in a concussion. Our client was removed from the Defendant’s bar on a stretcher and was transported to the hospital by ambulance. Our client was required to undergo painful procedures, including multiple sutures, and bone and skin grafting. Our client suffered permanent scarring and permanent and irreversible changes to his anterior dentition that required dental care.
Following the assault, the assailant fled the scene and his identity remains unknown. The assault occurred at the Defendant’s bar on a Saturday night, which is the busiest night of the week. However, the Defendant provided no security in their bar on the date of the assault. Following the assault, the Defendant began to employ a private security contractor to provide security at the bar. The Defendant’s insurance company settled for a confidential amount before trial.
Coin v. Lou Turk’s Gentlemen’s Club – Dram Shop / Inadequate Security
On March 28, 2012 at approximately 1:00 a.m., our client, Jerome Coin, and a friend were exiting Lou Turk’s strip club when they encountered a club bouncer. The bouncer assaulted Mr. Coin in the parking lot of the club. The assault stemmed from a previous confrontation between the bouncer and Mr. Coin. The previous confrontation occurred at the club when one of the strippers or a bartender had stolen Mr. Coin’s cell phone while he was in the bathroom. On that previous occasion, Mr. Coin threatened to call the police if his cell phone was not returned to him. The bouncer in question retrieved the phone from whoever had stolen it, gave it to back to Mr. Coin and then ejected him from the club, telling him to never return.
On March 28, 2012, when a stripper named “Heaven” saw Mr. Coin enter the club, we suspected that she called the bouncer on the phone and that the bouncer (then off-duty) came to the club to confront Mr. Coin. Mr. Coin stated that when he left the club on March 28, 2012, he attempted to shake the bouncer’s hand to make amends for the previous incident. According to Mr. Coin, the bouncer proceeded to spit in his face and then punch him in the face. By witness account, there was no evidence that Mr. Coin acted aggressively or antagonistically toward the bouncer. The bouncer fled the scene in a car before the police arrived. The bouncer was arrested on April 4, 2012, charged with simple assault, aggravated assault, harassment, and disorderly conduct.
The insurance company for the strip club immediately asserted that there was no insurance coverage for the bouncer because he was off-duty and because his conduct was criminal (intentional act exclusion). However, we asserted that under the Dram Shop Act it was unlawful for the club to provide liquor to someone who was visibly intoxicated. We had witnesses who stated that the bouncer was intoxicated when he came to the club to confront Mr. Coin and that he had consumed alcohol in the club before assaulting Mr. Coin in the parking lot. See 47 P.S. § 4-493(1); 47 P.S. § 4-497.
The strip club insurance company and lawyers tried to defend the case by asserting the bouncer was already drunk before he arrived at the club. However, in Pennsylvania, a plaintiff can prove dram shop liability without direct eyewitness evidence that an individual was served alcohol at a time when he was visibly intoxicated and may rely on circumstantial evidence of visible intoxication at the accident scene to do so. Fandozzi v. Kelly Hotel, Inc., 711 A.2d 524, 527 (Pa. Super. Ct. 1998).
Mr. Coin’s injuries were life-threatening. There was close to 100lb. weight difference between Mr. Coin and the bouncer. Mr. Coin was taken from the club to Crozer-Chester Medical Center by ambulance. Mr. Coin was intubated and a CT scan revealed he sustained a subarachnoid hemorrhage, multiple orbital fractures, a nasal bone fracture, and a zygomatic fracture. On March 31, 2012, surgery was performed on Mr. Coin to address his multiple facial fractures which included the reconstruction of his left orbital floor with an implant. Attached are photographs of Mr. Coin’s severe injuries. Mr. Coin was released from Crozer-Chester Medical Center on April 1, 2013.
Mr. Coin was faced with a grueling recovery process following his release from the hospital. Mr. Coin’s surgery required his jaw to be wired shut to ensure that his bones healed properly. This caused him extreme difficulty with breathing, drinking, and sleeping, and made eating impossible. On April 3, 2012, Mr. Coin had a post-surgical follow-up examination with an oral surgeon, Dr. Mulligan. On April 13, 2012, Mr. Coin had a follow-up CT scan and examination by neurosurgeon Dr. Michael Stanley to assess neurological damage from his head injury.
Mr. Coin had to live with constant reminders of the brutal assault he endured on March 28, 2012. Not only did Mr. Coin live with memories of the attack and traumatic medical procedures required to treat the resulting injuries, his physical appearance was permanently disfigured. The reconstruction of Mr. Coin’s left eye caused a visible disfigurement to his face. Mr. Coin is often asked, “What is the matter with your eye?” The metal in Mr. Coins face frequently causes discomfort. Mr. Coin also experiences uncomfortable numbness around his upper lip due to a severed nerve.
After presenting the report of a security consultant and a comprehensive settlement demand brochure outlining the life-changing damages suffered by Mr. Coin to the insurance company for the strip club, they agreed to settle the case confidentially.