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."