Thursday, December 21, 2017

Family gets $2 million settlement in fatal drunk driving lawsuit

Relatives of a St. Louis man and infant killed last year in a DWI crash have settled a lawsuit against the drunken driver and the Grove bar where he drank before getting behind the wheel.

The $2.2 million settlement approved Tuesday by St. Louis Circuit Judge Jason Sengheiser says insurance policies for Atomic Cowboy and Eric Wolf will pay relatives of Antwon Jones, 40, and his 2-month-old daughter, Scarlett Rose Jones. Both were killed in March 2016 when Wolf rear-ended them at Vandeventer and McRee avenues. Wolf was speeding at least 70 mph when he hit Jones’ Subaru.

Antwon Jones, 40, of St. Louis, was killed along with his 2-month-old daughter, Scarlett Rose Jones, by a drunken driver in St. Louis. Photo courtesy of family

Wolf, who turned 31 on Tuesday, was sentenced in September to three years in prison after pleading guilty to two counts of involuntary manslaughter. Wolf, who lived in the 200 block of Bellerive Boulevard in St. Louis, also received five years’ probation.

The lawsuit claimed Atomic Cowboy, at 4140 Manchester Avenue, served Wolf alcohol despite him being “visibly intoxicated.” Wolf then drove his car while intoxicated and crashed.

When police arrested Wolf, he declined an officer’s request for a blood sample, so police obtained a search warrant to get one. Court documents said Wolf’s blood-alcohol content was 0.12 percent — 50 percent over the legal limit — “several hours after the accident.”

The $2.2 million settlement is being split evenly between Antwon Jones’ fiancĂ©e, Terherrah Givens, who is the mother of Scarlett Rose, and five biological relatives of Jones. Atomic Cowboy’s insurance policy will pay $2 million; Wolf’s policy will pay $200,000. Lawyers for Givens will receive about $372,000 of Givens’ payout; lawyers for Jones’ relatives will get about $434,000 of their sum.

Sengheiser asked relatives in court Tuesday if they thought the settlement was fair, and they said they did.

At the end of the hearing, Sengheiser approved the settlement, pronounced it “fair and reasonable,” and offered his condolences.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

$1.8 million judgment unpaid. So deputies seize bar property in wrongful death case

ROCK HILL - A judge ordered last June that the Sandbar Bar & Grill in Rock Hill pay the estate of Odell Fields more than $800,000. Fields was killed by one punch outside the bar in 2014. The money was part of a $1.8 million judgment against the bar, bartender and man who threw the fatal punch.

But Field’s family has not been paid, according to lawyers representing the family and court records. So Tuesday, York County Sheriff’s Office deputies armed with a court order seized the contents of the bar -- right down to the last shotglass. Then a locksmith changed the locks.

The items will be inventoried, placed in storage, then auctioned at a public sale after the sale is advertised for three weeks, said David Manzi, a lawyer and partner from the Schiller & Hamilton firm in Rock Hill, which secured the $1.8 million settlement against the bar, the bartender, and Eric Cobb.

Odell Fields was a 65-year-old Vietnam War veteran who was at the bar in 2014. He was pursued outside by Cobb, surveillance video showed. Cobb was seen celebrating that he knocked Fields down with one punch.

Fields died the next day.  Cobb is in prison serving a 15-year sentence. He pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter in the death of Odell Fields.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Carpenter, Zuckerman, & Rowley Wins Record $131 Million Verdict In Bar Over-Serving Case

SEATTLE, Nov. 3, 2017 /PRNewswire/ -- Trial Lawyer Nick Rowley, partner at Carpenter, Zuckerman, & Rowley and founder of Trial Lawyers for Justice, announced today that a jury returned a verdict of $131,000,375.00 for Melissa Blaylock, a quadriplegic. The complaint filed in the case was against defendants Schwartz Brothers Restaurants/SBR Holdings, L.L.C. and Blaylock's estranged husband, Bruce Greene. The jury verdict apportioned fault to all parties involved.

Trial Lawyer Nick Rowley pictured with client Melissa Blaylock who was awarded a record $131 million verdict (Left to Right: Terry Traverso, Melissa Blaylock, Nick Rowley)

On May 3, 2014, Melissa Blaylock, a 39-year-old mother of four, was a passenger in her own car and had a .20 blood alcohol level. The driver, her estranged husband, had a blood alcohol level of .24. After driving only two miles after leaving a restaurant, they were involved in a horrific accident on their way home. This was Mr. Greene's third incident while driving under the influence. It was his second DUI after consuming alcohol at the restaurant.

The lawsuit was brought against Blaylock's husband and the restaurant which allegedly served him over 20-ounces of vodka over a 3-hour period. Following the accident, Melissa suffered a spine fracture, which resulted in her being rendered a quadriplegic. Ms. Blaylock cannot move her body but feels chronic pain and is trapped in a prison of her own body.

"This is a case of negligence and multiple poor decisions and irresponsibility which resulted in forever changing Melissa's life," said Nick Rowley, lead trial lawyer. "Melissa will never walk again, will require constant aid for basic everyday tasks, will continue to incur medical bills, and will remain a prisoner of her own body due to this horrific incident. This could have all been avoided had someone with a BAC of nearly 3 times the legal limit not been behind the wheel."

A Seattle jury in the case deliberated for nearly two days before reaching a record setting verdict of $51,000,375 in economic damages and $80,000,000 in non-economic damages, resulting in a total verdict of $131,000,375. The verdict apportioned fault against all parties in the case, 44% against the restaurant and bar, 39% against the drunk driver, and 17% against Melissa Blaylock.

"The people of Washington State take drinking and driving, over service of alcohol, and getting in a car with a drunk driver seriously. Hopefully this verdict will have the effect of changing decisions people make in the future and lives will be saved," added Rowley.

"I feel justice was served today for Melissa," said Rowley. "I know she would give all the money in the world to have her life back to normal."

The California law firm of Carpenter, Zuckerman, & Rowley (CZR) has over 100 employees dedicated to fighting for the rights of the injured. CZR is dedicated to helping clients recover the compensation they deserve for their injuries. For more information or to schedule a consultation, visit today.

With offices in Iowa, Minnesota, Illinois, and California, and offering legal services from coast to coast, Trial Lawyers for Justice focuses on personal injury law. Trial Lawyers for Justice is dedicated to helping clients recover the compensation they deserve for their injuries. For more information, or to schedule a consultation regarding your case, visit today.
Nick Rowley, his trial team, and the clients are available for media inquiries and interviews regarding this case and other personal injury legal matters. For media and press inquiries, please contact Brendan Egan at

Case Number 16-2-07043-4-SEA


Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Norwich Woman Gets $1.45 Million Settlement Following Accident With Drunk Driver

A Norwich woman severely injured after the car she was driving was struck head on by an alleged drunken motorist has received a $1.45 million settlement.

Andrea Bettencourt received the check from the estate of Mose Jones Friday. Jones was killed in the accident.

Attorneys for Bettencourt also have two separate lawsuits pending against the Mohegan Sun Tribal Gaming Authority alleging it recklessly dispensed liquor to Jones at the casino before the accident. The lawsuits are pending in New London Superior Court and with Mohegan Tribal Court. The lawsuit against the Jones estate was filed in February.

Robert Reardon, Bettencourt’s attorney, said the casino should be held liable for the accident because they allegedly allowed Jones to drink an excessive amount of liquor. Jones’ autopsy revealed he had a blood alcohol reading of 0.39, nearly five times the legal limit, which is 0.08. The incident occurred in January 2016.

Jones, Reardon said, was considered a high roller by the casino and therefore was allowed to consume as many drinks as he wanted free of charge. Jones had been drinking at the casinos’ Sachem’s Lounge.

“Our position is he was drinking nonstop for three to four hours,” said Reardon, a partner with The Reardon Law Firm in New London. “He was grossly intoxicated.”

Reardon said Sachem’s Lounge has a small seating and bar area and the bartender had to be aware Jones was intoxicated. “Our main argument against the casino is that they have to exercise more care on how many drinks people are getting when they are not paying for them. He received far more liquor than any reasonable bartender should have allowed him to receive and consume.”

Reardon said he doesn’t know what type of insurance Sachem’s Lounge has, noting that will be learned in discovery.

In Connecticut, bars have the option of having dram shop insurance. The state’s dram shop law says that a dram shop action cannot be based on mere negligence. A vendor must sell or give alcohol to an intoxicated person “recklessly” or “intentionally” in order for dram shop liability to arise.

Reardon said Tuesday it doesn’t matter to his case if the bar had dram shop insurance “because the casino has significant assets to pay any judgment. I’m sure the insurance was ample.”

Reardon and attorneys for the Jones estate settled the case Oct. 20.

Because of the accident, Bettencourt, 53, will never be able to work again, Reardon said. Bettencourt was a medical assistant. She sustained chronic pain to her leg and arm and has hearing loss, Reardon said. She underwent seven surgeries, including to her leg, arm and wrist, he said.

To date, Reardon said, Bettencourt has incurred about $171,000 in medical expenses.

While the $1.45 million settlement for his client is gratifying, Reardon said it’s not enough.

“Ms. Bettencourt has been through a terrible ordeal, but it’s not enough yet. We will continue to try to receive more compensation from the tribe,” Reardon said.

The 19-year-old casino has had several lawsuits filed against it for similar offenses. Reardon said his firm represented two such cases. One was settled in 2015 for $4 million, he said, In that case, Reardon said, a nightclub/restaurant owned by a tenant at the casino was liable.

The Jones estate was represented by Arthur Riccio, a partner with Riccio & Beletsky in East Haven. Riccio did not respond to a request for comment Tuesday.

The Mohegan Sun Tribal Gaming Authority is represented by Robert Rhodes, a partner with Halloran & Sage in Westport. He also did not respond to a request for comment.

Assisting Reardon were partners Kelly Reardon and Joseph Barnes.


Monday, October 16, 2017

Los Angeles Bar Patron Beaten by Bouncers Awarded $5 Million

In California, bar owners may be liable to pay damages if their security personnel assault their patrons in some situations. Even in cases in which the patrons were partly to blame, the patrons may still be able to recover damages that are reduced by the percentage of fault that they had for what happened. In Shawn Dearing v. Cabo Cantina, et al., the potential for liability of bar owners was demonstrated.
Factual background of the case

Shawn Dearing was a 28-year-old man who was waiting outside of the Cabo Cantina for his friends to leave at 2 a.m. Dearing was leaning up against a rail that separated the bar’s property from the sidewalk. A security guard who was employed by the Cabo Cantina told Dearing to stop leaning on the rail, and an argument ensued. The security guard then walked off of the bar’s property and onto the sidewalk with Dearing following him. The security guard’s supervisor came outside but did not de-escalate the situation. Dearing slapped away the security guard’s hand, prompting the security guard to hit him in the temporal region of his skull. The force of the blow caused skull fractures, and he sustained an additional fracture in the occipital region that was caused by his head striking the sidewalk. He filed a lawsuit against Cabo Cantina, its management company, and the security guard company, which supplied the security guards for the bar.
Plaintiff’s arguments

The plaintiff suffered fractures to his temporal and occipital bones and was hospitalized for three days following the assault. He was then left suffering from a moderate traumatic brain injury. He argued that the security guards violated the policies of Cabo Cantina by leaving the bar’s property, used excessive force and did not de-escalate the situation.
Defendants’ arguments

The security guard company, Global Protection Group, turned over the case against it to its insurance company. The insurance company refused to defend against the case, allowing it to go to default. The remaining defendants stipulated to the agency relationship between the security guards and their companies in order to keep the jury from hearing evidence of their negligence in screening, supervising and hiring the security guards. They argued that Dearing struck first and that the security guard was merely acting in self-defense when he hit Dearing. They also argued that Dearing was highly intoxicated at the time of the incident and had simply started a fight that he then lost.

The plaintiff submitted a §998 demand eight months prior to the trial in the amount of $1 million. One month prior to the trial, the plaintiff renewed the demand. The defendant let it expire without accepting it. The defendant submitted a §998 offer of $800,000 before the trial and of $1 million after the plaintiff rested his case.
Trial and verdict

The trial lasted for 11 days before both sides rested. It was then submitted to the jury, which deliberated for one and one-fourth days before returning a verdict in the plaintiff’s favor. The jury’s gross award was $9,254,397.21. Since the jury allocated 42 percent of the blame for the assault to the plaintiff, his net award was reduced by that percentage. Since the award exceeded the §998 demand of $1 million, the plaintiff indicated that he would be seeking an additional $100,000 to pay for his expert witness fees and $400,000 in prejudgment interest.
California law

Security guard employers may be liable for their actions if they assault patrons after the guards were negligently hired and subsequently placed in positions in which the assaults were reasonably foreseeable. The security guard companies may be liable if they were negligent in their hiring, training and supervision of their guards. Businesses that retain the security guard companies for their guards may also be liable if they were negligent in their supervision or if the guards acted with excessive force.

In cases involving intoxicated patrons who get into altercations with security guards, there are often issues of comparative negligence. Under California law, juries will determine the percentage of fault to allocate to each party. While having a percentage of fault in an assault will reduce the total award, it will not bar recovery of damages outright. For example, if a plaintiff sues a defendant, is awarded $1 million but is found to be 30 percent to blame, he or she will recover $700,000.


Sunday, September 17, 2017

$1.5 million awarded in drunk driving accident lawsuit

Almost $2 million was awarded to a Monroe County woman after a drunk driving accident left her seriously injured.

On Friday, the victim's attorney says they wanted to send a message to bar owners and drivers that aren't responsible: There could be repercussions.

"Her spleen had to be removed, she had a lacerated liver, brain bleeds, broken bones, significant injuries both physical and non-physical,” attorney Teena Miller of Gold, Khourey, and Turak, L.C., said.

Miller was talking about a 21-year-old victim, who was Christmas shopping in December 2014 when she was traveling through Monroe County to drop off a friend and her car was hit head-on by a drunk driver.

The driver responsible for the crash was Carol Jones.

Miller said Jones was speeding and her blood alcohol content was more than two times the legal limit.

On Monday, a jury decided that Jones and the American Legion in Beallsville was responsible for the crash.

"We aren't saying don't drink alcohol -- everyone wants to have a good time and watch football, whatever,” Miller said. “We are saying if you drink, have a designated driver.”

Miller's firm sponsors the 'Booze & Cruise, You'll Lose’ campaign a few times a year near the holidays.

She says they also want to make sure business owners understand the law.

“The law mandates you need to train your bartenders so they recognize the signs of intoxication and your bartender stops serving when someone is visible intoxicated,” Miller said.

Jones was sentenced to prison time for the incident. She is now free, but is not able to have a driver license.


Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Johnny Utah's Mechanical Bull Costs Bar Nearly $200K in Injury Settlements

MIDTOWN — Riding the mechanical bull at popular Western-themed bar Johnny Utah’s led to what Leonard Barstein recalled as "probably the worst experience of my life."

The Brooklyn resident, now 31, had already taken a ride on the bull at the popular bar on West 51st Street in February 2014 when he decided to give it another go.

But before Barstein had a chance to grab on, the bull’s operator cranked up the speed and he was “violently thrown off,” claimed a lawsuit he filed against the venue a few months later.

“It was absolutely horrible — I would never get on the bull again,” Barstein told DNAinfo New York, noting he suffered a broken ankle and a torn ligament he said required a series of surgeries and months of “very painful” recovery.

The bar — which boasts the city’s only mechanical bull — opted to settle with Barstein for $81,000 rather than go to trial, his then-attorney Alexander Karasik said.

The bar’s owner, John Sullivan, declined to comment.

Including Barstein’s settlement money, the venue at 25 W. 51st St. has forked over at least $198,500 in settlement money to patrons with claims similar to his, according to the attorneys who represented them.

Between September 2008 and June 2017, at least six Johnny Utah’s patrons filed suit against the bar saying they were injured riding the mechanical bull, records show.

Most recently, a customer sued the bar claiming she suffered “life debilitating” injuriesafter she was “violently thrown off the bull before having a chance to mount the device," the claim said. The "visibly drunk" patron, in her late 20s, tore her ACL and had to undergo surgery as a result, her lawyer said.

In July 2012, one of the bar’s own employees, Chauncey Crayton, hit the venue with a suit claiming he was tossed from the bull while trying to dismount it two months earlier, records show.

Crayton, who “broke a couple of teeth” during the incident, received a $42,500 settlement for his injuries, said Nicholas Sarta, his attorney at the time.

The person operating the bull that evening turned the machine back on as Crayton dismounted after the initial ride had ended, the attorney noted.

A little over a year before that, in June 2011, a man named Christopher Haynes filed a lawsuit claiming he fractured his left tibial plateau when the bull’s operator tossed him off before he had a chance to sit down on it.

Haynes received between $75,000 and $85,000 from the bar as a settlement, said Neil Fuhrer, his attorney at the time.

“We thought the negligence was that they didn’t give him an opportunity to seat himself properly,” the lawyer said.

Johnny Utah's at 25 W. 51st St. (Credit: DNAinfo/Maya Rajamani)

In 2008, meanwhile, two different patrons — a woman named Rachel Love and a man named Aaron Schnore — filed separate suits against the bar claiming they’d suffered “serious” injuries at the horns of Johnny Utah’s bull, court filings show.

Schnore’s case was ultimately discontinued, and his attorney declined to say whether he and the bar had settled. Love’s attorney also declined to comment on the outcome of her suit, but the lawyer who represented the bar in the suit, Lawrence Buchman, said she and the bar settled for less than $25,000.

Despite the suits and settlements, Johnny Utah’s mechanical bull continues to rear its head. The bar regularly posts photos that tout “no-handed bull rides” and encourages patrons to “#getbucked” on the free-to-ride machine.

Johnny Utah's website notes that would-be riders have to sign a waiver before mounting up.

"Just like any activity, there is assumed risk involved. Our ring is completely lined in padding and offers a safe landing area. However, it is a 'ride at your own risk' attraction," the site reads.

The bar also states that the machine is "designed to be comparative to a real bull ride" and that it is "operated by a trained employee, who will give you a fun and challenging experience!"

On a recent visit, a steady stream of patrons signed waivers at a "Bull Sign Up" station and received marks on their hands before lining up to ride.

A bouncer allowed riders into the ring one at a time, turning away a few patrons who tried to ride without a mark on their hands. Each time, the operator — who was situated on an elevated platform behind the ring — waited for riders to mount before starting the device.

The attorney Buchman noted that while he isn’t in the insurance business, the “high risk” operation of a mechanical bull is likely reflected in the bar’s insurance premiums.

“It becomes a decision for the insurance company. Do they want to pay some settlement number, or do they want to go to trial on the case?” he said.

“Settling is not anything peculiar to the area of personal injury cases,” he added.

Barstein — who dealt with a “very complicated recovery” after his injury and says he still has issues with his ankle — said he could understand why the bar keeps the bull around.

“I feel like they should really get rid of the bull,” he said. “But I guess that’s the whole point of the bar, the main thing — to have that bull there.”

Friday, July 28, 2017

Rock Hill family may not see $1.8M in fatal sucker punch lawsuit

A Rock Hill family is fighting to get even a dime of a $1.8 million court judgment after their father and husband was killed outside of a Rock Hill bar by a punch to the head.

Vietnam veteran Odell Fields served on the battlefield but lost his life one night in 2014.

Surveillance video from the Sandbar and Grille shows Eric Cobb finish his drink and charge at Fields throwing one deadly punch.

“It was a sucker punch,” Odell Field’s son, Johnny Fields, said. “He didn't see it coming.”

Cobb is now serving a 15-year prison sentence for voluntary manslaughter, but Fields said his father's death has been especially hard for his mother.

“She grieved so much that the neurologist said it took so much out of her, she had a stroke,” Fields said. “She had a massive stroke.”

Fields filed a lawsuit against Cobb, the bar and its manager, Jose Cintron.

Last month, a judge awarded the family $1.8 million in damages.

“I can tell you right now they haven't gotten a penny and I don't know that they will,” the Fields' attorney, Joel Hamilton, said.

The Sandbar and Grille's insurance company claims its coverage doesn't include incidents involving alcohol, but a new law just took effect in South Carolina requiring bars and restaurants to have $1 million in coverage if they serve alcohol after 5 p.m.,” Hamilton said.

“People that suffer injuries or losses due to someone being overserved in a bar, at least there is some protection to help hold those people accountable,” Hamilton said.

The law doesn't help Fields' family but it protects patrons in the future.

Senate Bill 116 became law July 1.

Hamilton said they'll fight the bar's insurance company trying to get the money for Fields’ family but there's no telling how long that could take.


Thursday, June 29, 2017

Man beaten in parking lot after leaving Daily Double wins $3.6M judgment

GLENS FALLS — A man who was brutally beaten after leaving a South Street bar in 2012 has won a nearly $3.66 million judgment against his attacker.

Jason Aiken was beaten by Jesse J. Tracy on Dec. 22, 2012 in the South Street municipal parking lot near the Daily Double.

Aiken and Tracy had exchanged words as they left the bar. Aiken was serving as a designated driver and trying to help an intoxicated friend into a vehicle, when Tracy punched and kicked Aiken to the point of unconsciousness. Tracy repeatedly struck Aiken after he fell to the ground and only stopped after friends told Tracy they believed Aiken was dead.

Tracy, a mixed martial arts fighter, pleaded guilty to second-degree assault and was sentenced in June 2013 to 6 years in state prison. He is up for a parole hearing this December and could be released in February, according to the state inmate information website.

Aiken, now 30, required multiple surgeries to repair facial fractures and nearly died of an unintentional morphine overdose by staff at Albany Medical Center. He lost 50 pounds, suffers constant pain and has developed Type I diabetes, according to his mother’s statement at Tracy’s sentencing.

Aiken’s lawyer, Peter Moschetti, filed a lawsuit in state Supreme Court of Washington County in May 2014. In addition to naming Tracy, he named the bar in the lawsuit, claiming Tracy was served alcohol to the point he became intoxicated and that led to his aggressive and loud behavior.

Nolan awarded Aiken $2.5 million for future pain and suffering and loss of enjoyment of life, $1 million for pain and suffering to date and $155,252 in medical expenses for a total of $3,655,252.

Moschetti acknowledged Thursday that his client likely would not get much money from Tracy, who remains incarcerated at Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora.

But Moschetti said the judgment is a good reminder to Tracy of what he did and said Aiken will get 10 percent of any assets Tracy acquires.

Tracy had filed a motion to dismiss the case on a technicality — a typographical error in the paperwork that incorrectly listed the year of the incident as 2013 instead of 2012. A judge denied that request. After Tracy did not respond to additional court paperwork, Supreme Court Judge Thomas Nolan granted a motion for summary judgment against Tracy. In a decision dated June 19, Nolan set the damages.

Moschetti said his client is doing as well as can be expected.

“With all those facial fractures, he has a lot of issues. His eyesight is better. The sad part is he is in constant pain all through his face,” Moschetti said.

Aiken, who lives in South Hadley, Massachusetts, said in an affidavit “there has not been a day in my life since then where my face does not throb with pain as a result of the physical damage that was done.” He also suffers migraines three or four days per week, he said.

At the time of the assault, Aiken was working at Westover Air Force Base in Massachusetts and was in the Air Force Reserves. He had come home for the 2012 holidays to visit friends and family, according to his affidavit.

Aiken had to be medically discharged from the Air Force in 2015. He continues to work on the Air Force Base in a civilian capacity, according to Moschetti.

“It’s a terrible incident. Jason’s a really nice kid. I’m glad the court recognized what he went through,” Moschetti said.

The brutal assault prompted the city to crack down on rowdy behavior along South Street and led to a successful push to change the last call time for bars in the city from 4 a.m. to 3 a.m.

The case against the Daily Double is still pending. Moschetti guessed that the case will go to trial in the spring of 2018.

Daily Double owner RoseAnn Stalker sad in a Facebook message that Tracy was not outside the bar when the incident occurred and to check with police. She declined to comment further.

The Daily Double has had other problems. Its license was suspended by the state Liquor Authority for 15 days in August 2015 because of complaints filed by Glens Falls Police of assaults and disturbances at the property.

The state fined the Daily Double liquor license holder $3,500 in May 2013 and $6,500 in March 2014 because of disorderly conduct, illegal sale of “Jell-O” shots and underage drinking.


Saturday, June 10, 2017

$10.75M: Bob Barlow paralyzed wins Key West lawsuit after claiming shallow pool no warnings

Bob Barlow a paralyzed Massachusetts man is awarded $10.75 after suing a Key West resort after claiming shallow pool he dove into had no warning signs.

Bob Barlow a 42 year old Massachusetts father of two has been awarded $10.75 million settlement after suing a Key West resort after having been left paralyzed diving into a shallow pool.

The lawsuit against Galleon Resort and Marina came after the married father of two visited the Key West, Florida resort in April 2015 only for tragedy to strike.

At the time, Barlow and his family were vacationing at the resort, amidst 40th birthday celebrations, when he decided to dive from the Sunset Tiki Bar deck into the water below.

It was at that moment, the former army veteran who had fought in Iraq, struck his head on the concrete bottom and suffered a severe spinal cord injury that left him paralyzed from the neck down reported the dailymail.

According to a GoFundMe page that was initially created for him in 2015, Barlow didn’t realize that the water below the bar was as shallow as it was.

He then sued both company owners for not having appropriate signage in the area.

According to his lawsuit, neither company had posted warning signs of dangers such as diving for customers to see.

‘Nor were there any barriers or appropriate guardrails to prevent Tiki Bar patrons and/or hotel guests of visitors from diving off the deck into the shallow water,’ the suit says.

So severe is the spinal injury that Barlow incurred the father is unable to breathe without a ventilator.

Barlow’s lawyer, Stuart Grossman, made the announcement of the $10.75 million settlement on Thursday.

His attorney said the bar also lacked signs about diving into shallow water.

The Galleon at Key West Inc, the Galleon at Key West Community Association Inc and the Galleon Resort Condominium Association Inc agreed to pay a combined $9,750,000 through insurers, according to the Miami Herald.

According to the suit, the Cook Group, who owns the Sunset Tiki Bar, will pay $1 million.

The settlement has since led to some wondering what culpability, Barlow may have played in his misfortune, after having elected to dive into an area of the pool the man wasn’t certain of its depth levels.

That said, others wonder, the resort and Tikki bar were held to a standard to stave off potential injury to guests by notifying them of what most would have assumed were safe standards being enforced.


Friday, April 28, 2017

Attack at Las Vegas Strip nightclub leads to $160M verdict

A New York City hedge fund manager who sued the Marquee nightclub after he was attacked by a manager and security officers won a $160.5 million jury verdict this week.

In the year before he suffered a traumatic brain injury in April 2012, according to trial transcripts, David Moradi managed a $1 billion hedge fund and earned $11 million.

According to a 2014 lawsuit against The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas, the nightclub and Roof Deck Entertainment LLC, the manager and security officers forced Moradi into a security room and demanded his identification and credit card after he already had paid a bill of more than $10,000.

“The Marquee security members and manager shoved David to the ground, causing his head to forcefully hit the concrete surface,” the suit states. “The Marquee security members and manager repeatedly hit and smashed David’s head into the concrete and continually held his head and right eye against the concrete with a high degree of pressure.”

Still pressing his head to the concrete, they asked, “Are you going to cooperate and give your ID back?” according to the suit. “Believing he could be killed, David agreed in order to end the violent attack.”

The same jury that awarded Moradi nine figures on Wednesday for past and future wages is expected to decide punitive damages against the defendants Friday as the five-week trial concludes.

Defense attorneys argued at trial that a dispute arose when Moradi was closing out his tab. They also argued that when a general manager tried to tell him there was a problem with his signature, Moradi head-butted him, according to trial transcripts.

Lawyers for the casino and nightclub told jurors Moradi did not suffer a brain injury or permanent damage during the incident.

Moradi’s attorneys said he was a VIP guest at the nightclub when he was “assaulted, battered and falsely imprisoned,” the transcripts state.

He became disoriented during the attack and stopped in a restroom after he was escorted out of the casino, according to his lawsuit. He noticed his injuries, and when he returned to the Wynn, where he was staying, a VIP host “became alarmed” when he saw his condition and arranged for a Wynn driver to take him to Desert Springs Hospital.

Moradi was diagnosed with a concussion. He also suffered a bruised right eye, head swelling and sore arms, knees and neck. He had difficulty walking and concentrating and endured headaches, disorientation and anxiety, according to his lawsuit. A Las Vegas neurosurgeon diagnosed him with a traumatic brain injury.

As a result of his injuries, his hedge fund ultimately shut down, and Moradi is now unable to get work in the field.

Defense lawyers said his hedge fund had started to fail before the incident.

Paul Padda, who represents Moradi, declined to comment on the verdict or discuss the case Thursday.

Josh Aicklen, a lawyer for The Cosmopolitan, also declined to comment.

About three months after the incident with Moradi, a Las Vegas couple attending a Farmers Insurance party at Marquee said they were assaulted by security officers at the club. A lawsuit filed by Steven and Melissa Cochran in connection with that incident is still awaiting trial.

The verdict

Jurors decided that the defendants should pay David Moradi $160.5 million for an attack at Marquee nightclub. Here’s a breakdown of the jury’s award:

Past loss of earnings: $23 million.

Future loss of earnings: $79.5 million.

Past pain and suffering: $20 million.

Future pain and suffering: $38 million.


Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Woman awarded $5M in lawsuit over San Angelo crash that killed son

A Tom Green County judge granted a $5 million default judgment to the mother of Marine Sgt. Donald John Di Pietro, who died in a motorcycle crash outside a San Angelo bar on March 9, 2013.

The lawsuit — filed Mar. 6, 2015, against Malcolm Guy McBurnett, Allen Lee Schmidt, Party Ranch, LLC and Tracy Lawson, former owner of the Party Ranch — was settled in favor of Teresa Di Pietro during a final hearing before 391st District Judge Brad Goodwin on Tuesday morning.

None of the defendants was present.

Teresa Di Pietro testified tearfully for about 30 minutes. She recounted her son's life accomplishments and the struggles the family has faced since he died.

"It was my third time to go into that courtroom" throughout this ordeal, Teresa Di Pietro said. "It's really hard to bare your soul in front of other people and talk."

Donald John Di Pietro, an intelligence instructor who was stationed at Goodfellow Air Force Base, was riding his motorcycle south on Christoval Road when he crashed into the back of McBurnett's pickup and died on a dark stretch of road in front of the Party Ranch, 5233 Christoval Road.

McBurnett was drinking at the bar just before putting his stalled 1991 Chevrolet Cheyenne pickup in neutral and pushing it into the road with the help of Schmidt, according to court documents. Police determined McBurnett was intoxicated and that the lights on his truck were not turned on.

"She was able to tell the world what impact this had on her life, got to pay tribute to her son," said Walker M. Duke, representing attorney. "Drunk driving deaths are needless, pointless, senseless but fortunately they are also preventable. Hopefully Teresa Di Pietro, through her courage of going to through this, will play some role in making sure some other mother doesn't have to go through this."

The defendants were all sued in this lawsuit but have all chosen to ignore it, said Duke, adding that the law requires a response.

"They were consciously indifferent. They chose to ignore it and so as a result, judgment was awarded in Teresa's favor," Duke said. "Money can't compensate. Nothing can bring back Donald. It is a figure we thought, we wanted to be reasonable."

The judge approved $2.5 million for mental anguish, grief, bereavement, loss of society, care and support. Another $2.5 million was approved for punitive damages.

In April 2013, Donald John Di Pietro's father, Donald Ray Di Pietro, filed a lawsuit against Lawson, McBurnett and Schmidt. A $5 million default judgment was also settled in his favor in May 2015.

Schmidt was convicted on a charge of manslaughter by a Tom Green County jury on Aug. 20, 2014, for his involvement in Donald's death. He was given a 10-year sentence, probated for 10 years, because he didn't have any prior felony conviction. Jurors also ordered that he pay a $10,000 fine.

McBurnett pleaded guilty to intoxication manslaughter with a vehicle — a first-degree felony punishable by five to 99 years in prison — as part of a plea agreement with prosecutors and was sentenced last October to 35 years in prison. He has begun serving his sentence at Tulia Transfer Facility.

The Party Ranch shut down permanently in summer 2014, and the building on Christoval Road remains vacant.

"The way I feel is that my son was very honorable, and he deserves honor," Teresa Di Pietro said. "It isn't about me, it's about my son deserving honor. If he would have been killed in battle, that would have been honorable. This was not honorable. And following through and seeking justice for my son is honorable. And now I feel that was accomplished."


Thursday, March 23, 2017

Insurer Settles Bad Faith Claim Over Denial of Coverage in Fatal Bar Brawl (Georgia)

A convoluted case stemming from a brawl that left a man dying in a McDonough bar's parking lot has settled eight years later with the tavern's insurer, Occidental Fire and Casualty, agreeing to pay $7.8 million. The settlement nearly matches a default judgment entered against the bar after Occidental refused to defend the original case, which led to a bad-faith suit against the insurer.

Settlement negotiations began after the Georgia Court of Appeals ruled late last year that Occidental had breached its contract and had a duty to defend the owners of the Irish Bred Pub & Grill against a wrongful death claim.

"This is a case that really shows the compounding effect of the decision the insurer made years ago not to defend their client," said plaintiffs attorney Andrew Ausband of Ausband & Dumont in Stockbridge. "That case could have settled years ago well within the bar's million-dollar policy limits," said Ausband, who co-counseled with Atlanta solo John "Jay" Peavey Jr.

Ausband said that Dennis Corry Porter & Smith partner Georgie Connell was involved in early stages of the litigation, but firm partner Angela Cooper was Occidental's lead counsel throughout most of the case. Neither Connell nor Cooper responded to requests for comment.

According to Ausband, Peavey and court filings, the case began March 8, 2009, when Ryan Gilliam, 22, was at the bar drinking with friends following a NASCAR race at the Atlanta Motor Speedway.

A fight broke out in the parking lot during which an off-duty bouncer at the bar, Charles Edward Brown, stabbed Gilliam multiple times, killing him. Brown was subsequently acquitted on criminal charges of felony murder, malice murder and voluntary manslaughter.

Ausband filed a wrongful death suit in Clayton County State Court on behalf of Gilliam's parents, Harold and Robin Gilliam, naming defendants including Brown and the corporate owners, R&R Spirits and Irish Bred Pub and Grill V Inc. R&R had bought the bar a few months before Gilliam's death and had purchased a general liability policy from Occidental naming as the insureds Irish Bred Pub & Grille V Inc. and Irish Bred Pub and Grille.

Shortly after the suit was filed, the plaintiffs filed a demand for the bar's $1 million policy limits. Instead, after initially providing a lawyer, Occidental dropped any effort to offer a defense, claiming that R&R was not a named insured. The insurer refused to participate or respond to discovery, he said, and in late 2009 R&R entered into a settlement assigning the Gilliams its claims against Occidental for not providing coverage.

In 2012, a default judgment was entered against R&R for $7,841,946.

In 2013, the Gilliams sued Occidental and the insurance broker that sold the policy in Fulton County Superior Court asserting claims including breach of contract and reformation of the insurance policy.

Both the bar's buyers and sellers were "very unsophisticated people," Ausband said, and had clearly intended for R&R to assume the coverage for which it continued to pay premiums after the sale.

The trial court agreed, ruling that a "mutual mistake" had led to R&R not being listed on the policy, and reformed it. The trial court also refused to dismiss the breach of contract claim, and ruled that Occidental was liable for postjudgment interest on the 2012 judgment.

The trial court also dismissed the claims against the insurance broker as time-barred.

In its Nov. 14, 2016, ruling upholding the trial court, the Court of Appeals found that Occidental "agreed to insure the operations of the bar and restaurant, accepted payment to do so, and now seeks to avoid such coverage."

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Families reach partial settlements in DWI wrong-way crash lawsuits (Hillsbourough, NC)

Parts of three lawsuits in a July 2015 wrong-way DWI crash in Orange County have been settled, while the rest may not be decided until next year.

The lawsuits were filed by the families of three people killed in the crash – Darlene McGee, Felecia Harris King and King’s granddaughter Jahnice Beard – and King’s daughter, Jahnia King, who was seriously injured.

The intial defendants included former UNC student Chandler Kania, his parents, and the Chapel Hill bars that served him alcohol the night before the July 19, 2015, wreck on Interstate 85/40 west of Hillsborough.

Chandler Michael Kania appeared in a public service video warning drivers not to text while driving.

It is possible that up to 17 people could be named in the lawsuits, said David Kirby, attorney for McGee’s family.

An Orange County jury found Kania guilty of three counts of involuntary manslaughter, misdemeanor reckless driving and other charges in October. He was sentenced to 16 years in prison and is at Foothills Correctional Institution in Morganton.

The lawsuits pending against Kania and La Residence – one of the bars that served him – could be tried in February 2018.

The other bar, He’s Not Here, and Kania’s parents have settled the lawsuits against them. The settlements were sealed by court order until the remaining cases are resolved or a Superior Court judge orders them unsealed, according to court documents.

A separate amount of $105,893 awarded to McGee’s youngest child has been paid to the Orange County Clerk of Court’s office and will be placed in a trust or held until the child becomes an adult, documents show.

Orange County Judge Elaine O’Neal approved a motion Monday that would allow attorneys for the victims’ families to interview Kania more than once about the events leading to the wreck. Kania can be interviewed by video to avoid having to transfer him each time to Central Prison in Raleigh, she said.

Roger Smith Jr. and Wade Smith, lawyers for Chandler Kania, who faces three counts of second-degree murder, three counts of felony death by motor vehicle, driving while impaired and several other charges in a July 19 wreck in Orange County, talk with repoTammy Grubb

Attorneys for the victims are wading through thousands of documents and texts relevant to the case, said Attorney Shawn Howard, representing the family of Jahnice Beard. They could file a motion to add at least 15 people to the lawsuit, he said, including members of Kania’s fraternity, bar employees, and a UNC student who served him alcohol at a party.

They need to interview Kania now to find others who should be included, he said, and will need to interview Kania again if more questions come up. The statute of limitations for those interviews runs out in the next five months, he said.

“(Kania’s) convenience and lack of wanting to sit for two depositions should not override the rights of these families to see justice (done),” Howard said. “Countless individuals have had to speak about what happened. The one individual who has not had to talk to anybody but his own attorney is Mr. Kania.”

Kania’s attorney Daniel Katzenbach unsuccessfully argued that more than one interview with Kania is unreasonable and unnecessary. The plaintiffs’ attorneys have interviewed several individuals added to their list already, he said.

“As far as the information they’ll learn from Chandler,” Katzenbach said, “I’ve told them to make note of this that Chandler doesn’t remember anything about this night, so the notion that they’re going to learn all this wonderful, factual information that’s going to allow them to bring in or sue people, that’s not what’s going to happen.”