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.

via https://www.law.com/ctlawtribune/sites/ctlawtribune/2017/10/31/norwich-woman-gets-1-45-million-settlement-following-accident-with-drunk-driver/?slreturn=20171002181842

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.
Negotiations

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.

via https://www.natlawreview.com/article/los-angeles-bar-patron-beaten-bouncers-awarded-5-million