Tuesday, July 19, 2016

$1.7M Settlement in Deadly Chicago Nightclub Stampede


The family of a 24-year old man who was one of 21 people trampled to death in a stampede at a once-popular hip hop Chicago night club settled a wrongful death claim with Clear Channel Broadcasting and AM/FM Ohio.

At the E2 Sunday Night event, the evening’s DJ, who plaintiff’s assert was an agent of Clear Channel/WGCI, directed security to use pepper spray to stop a disturbance on the dance floor between two women at approximately 2:25 AM on February 17, 2003. He then further incited the crowd when he yelled over the PA system that it was a terrorist attack.

With more than 1,000 persons in attendance, the terrified group then rushed down a single narrow staircase in the second-story club, falling and piling on top of each other. Many of the patrons were trapped and wedged together in the staircase, including Dashand Ray who along with 20 other victims died from compressional asphyxia. 

Settlements ranged from $1.2 million to $2 million
The case is one of 21 consolidated death cases and approximately 62 injury cases where the lead counsel on behalf of all the claimants includes attorneys Melvin BrooksJames D. Montgomery, Jr. and John K. Kennedy of James D. Montgomery & Associates, Ltd. in Chicago. As a result of the litigation efforts of Brooks and his firm the most recent settlements with the Clear Channel defendants have ranged from $1.2 million to $2.0 million.

On that cold February Sunday night, the event at E2 featured a closing performance by WGCI’s popular mixologist, defendant Vaughn Woods, according to attorney Brooks. Defendants Clear Channel Broadcasting and AM/FM Ohio owned, operated and controlled radio station WGCI.
WGCI extensively promoted the E2 Sunday Ladies Night party on the air. It was designed to have E2 patrons associate the extremely popular dance club with the radio station and its disc jockeys.

The consolidated litigation was initially filed against the E2 Club owners and property owners (Lesley Motors), the City of Chicago, Envy Entertainment Company, Clear Channel Broadcasting, AM/FM Ohio and the DJ. The consolidated cases against the club and property owners settled for their insurance coverage of  $2.5 million. The City was ultimately dismissed after rulings from the Illinois Appellate Court. Envy Entertainment and its owner were judgment proof.

Clear Channel has now settled all the injury cases and all but six of the 21 wrongful death cases. Plaintiffs’ motion to consolidate several of the pending cases for trial was denied by the Cook County Circuit Court judge, who ruled that each death case must be tried separately and not consolidated for trial.

The plaintiffs charged that the DJ at the live entertainment event was an agent or employee of WGCI. Clear ChannelBroadcasting and the DJ denied any agency or employment relationship, arguing that he was an independent contractor. Clear Channel further argued that assuming Woods was its agent, his action was outside the scope of anyauthority or agency and that additionally the DJ’s speech was protected by the First Amendment.

As part of the settlement, Clear Channel will also pay $10,000 towards a memorial for the E2 victims on behalf of the Ray family.

The case is Howard Ray, Sr. and Mary Ray, as co-special administrators of the Estate of DaShand Ray v. AM/FM Ohio, Inc., Clear Channel Broadcasting Inc. and Vaughn Woods, No. 03 L 2376, Circuit Court of Cook County, IL, before Judge Elizabeth Budzinski.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

St. Louis jury awards $5.2 million in fatal tent collapse at bar near Busch Stadium

 March 14, 2016


ST. LOUIS • A St. Louis jury has delivered a $5.2 million verdict in a wrongful death and personal injury lawsuit over a tent collapse at a downtown sports bar.

Alfred Goodman, 58, a retired ironworker from Waterloo, suffered fatal head and neck injuries when wind gusts of up to 50 mph toppled the enclosure beside Kilroy’s Sports Bar at 720 South Seventh Street during a storm on April 28, 2012.

Nearly 100 others were injured, including the seven people who joined Goodman’s family in consolidated suits alleging negligence on the part of the bar owners.

After deliberating about five hours Monday on the heels of last week’s trial, the St. Louis Circuit Court jury found in favor of the plaintiffs. Jurors awarded $2.4 million to Goodman’s family and $2.8 million to the other plaintiffs, split with individual amounts ranging from $75,000 to $700,000.
Punitive damages were not considered.

“We were pleased that the jury saw it our way and thought that Kilroy’s could have done more than what they did, which was almost nothing, to prevent this tragedy,” said Gregory Shevlin, the lawyer for Goodman’s family, after the verdict was delivered.

In closing arguments earlier Monday, jurors were reminded of just how severe the plaintiffs’ injuries were.

In addition to the death, one woman, age 49, broke her neck and had her left breast ripped from her body. She lost two months of work, during which time her injuries forced her to sleep sitting up.

Another woman, age 52, spent nine nights in intensive care, with eight fractures in her neck and back. A former half-marathon runner, in her 30s, fractured more than a dozen ribs and suffered collapsed lungs. They and the others, most of whom live in the St. Louis area, were seeking damages ranging from $250,000 to $950,00 each.

Shevlin had asked the jury to award $2.5 million to Goodman’s wife and $1 million to each of the daughters, who suffered “the worst kind of permanent losses.”

Goodman was “the kind of guy that we would all want to be,” he told jurors. He had plans, in retirement, to travel the country with his wife in an RV. He never got to walk his daughters down the wedding aisle, or meet his grandchildren, since born.

“It was just a horrible, horrible tragedy,” Shevlin said later Monday.

The lawyer for Kilroy’s could not be reached for comment after the verdict was delivered.

A duty to monitor storm?

The key question for jurors was whether Art and Brenda Randall, the owners of Kilroy Was Here LLC, should have better monitored the approaching storm and cleared customers from the tent area.  Jurors were asked to consider whether the Randalls did what an “ordinary, careful person” would do in their situation or whether they were negligent. They need to weigh whether the business knew — or could have known — that hazardous weather conditions were near and the tent might not hold.

In closing arguments, the Randalls’ attorney, Brian McBrearty, said the couple assumed the tent was secure based upon assurances from city inspectors, who issued a permit, and Sun Rental, the company that supplied and installed the tent two weeks earlier.  He said the Randalls, under the tent themselves, had maybe 20 to 30 seconds warning that “the one in a million” storm was coming. Before the skies darkened and the wind hit, fans attending the earlier Cardinals’ game had enjoyed beautiful spring weather.
“If this was a normal storm there would have been plenty of time to warn,” he said. “But this was not a normal storm.”
He pointed out that when the storm hit the downtown area at 3:41 p.m., the National Weather Service still hadn’t updated its severe weather alerts to include anything but the northern part of the city.

But Todd Muchnick, an attorney on the personal injury claims, said there were plenty of opportunities to learn of the storm steadily marching down Interstate 70.

In addition to a weather map that would have been lit up with purple and red when the owner’s son said he checked and saw nothing, there were regular news alerts, he said, had anyone checked the bar’s TVs.

“They shouldn’t be surprised. They had a duty to monitor. They had a duty not to be surprised,” he said.

City rules called for tents to be able to withstand 90 mph winds — the industry standard — but a city inspector testified last week that he had no way to actually test for that strength and had warned the Randalls to evacuate customers in bad weather. The tent had placards warning that it should not be used as shelter.

Muchnick said in addition to their physical injuries, his clients suffered “a hidden injury — that’s the injury that came when their trust in society was shattered,” he said.

Muchnick said after the verdict that he thought the predictability of the storm resonated with the jury, which had heard from a plaintiffs’ expert who called it “a very well-publicized weather event.”

The Goodmans also had a claim against Sun Rental, which settled for $548,000 in 2014. There were also several other confidential settlements on the personal injury claims. The award in the Kilroy’s case will be offset by those amounts.