Friday, August 9, 2019

Warren Twp. bar target of $4.5M wrongful death suit

WARREN TWP., Ohio - An unsolved murder at a Warren Township bar is at the center of a $4.5 million wrongful death suit filed against the bar's owners and its security provider.

An Akron woman administering the estate of James Dotson filed a civil lawsuit in Trumbull County Court alleging that Dotson was shot outside the J&L Lounge on Highland Avenue on April 4, 2016, after the bar's security guard refused to let Dotson seek safety from assailants.

The suit, filed on Wednesday, says Dotson sought refuge in the bar after being attacked by unknown people in the parking lot early that morning but was denied entry into the bar in spite of pleas that his life was in danger.

Dotson, 33, had been attending a birthday party at the bar.

The lawsuit doesn't name the owners or the bar, the security guard or the company he worked for. The unknown suspects in the shooting are also named as defendants.

The complaint asks for $1.5 million in compensatory damages and another $3 million in punitive damages.

Thursday, August 1, 2019

Ex-NFL Star Shawne Merriman Filed For Chapter 13 Bankruptcy Prior to Wrongful Death Lawsuit

Former NFL star Shawne Merriman was facing financial issues so dire, prior to being sued for wrongful death, that he filed for Chapter 13 bankruptcy.

According to court documents obtained by The Blast, Merriman is in the middle of his bankruptcy case, which he originally filed in November 2018.

In his petition, Merriman listed having $477,600 in assets and $787,177.05 in liabilities. His assets include a plot of land in San Diego worth $450,000, 2015 Mercedes GLK, $5k in clothes, $5k in personal items, $2,500 in the bank and $15k worth of household items.

His liabilities included $575k owed on mortgages for the plot of land, another $100k relating to the land, unknown amounts to the IRS and back taxes, $46k on a line of credit, $42k in legal bills and $3k over medical bill collections.

His average monthly income is $9,997.13 with expenses totaling $9,007.51.

He earns $3,290 in disability income and another $6,706 from interest and dividends. Merriman said he made $87,449 for 2017 and $40k for 2016.

The case is ongoing and his debt has yet to be wiped clean. The financial issues aren’t the only legal issue Merriman is dealing with.

View photos

Last month, the family of Playboy employee, Kimberly Fattorini, sued Merriman over her death by an overdose.

The suit implicates Merriman in the death of 30-year-old Fattorini who died on July 21, 2017 at a private residence in Hollywood after being discovered unresponsive by friends.

Fattorini worked for Playboy as a casting associate, and her death was offiically ruled accidental after the L.A. County Medical Examiner determined she died from an overdose of alcohol, cocaine and the club drug, GHB.

Fattorini's parents, Deann and Ferdinand, filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Merriman, a nightclub, and others, alleging the girl was drugged and possibly assaulted before her death.

According to the lawsuit, on the night of July 20, 2017, Fattorini was invited out to a nightclub by a promoter who was hosting an event that evening. Fattorini met up with friends and attended the event, where they drank alcohol and danced to music.

Afterwards, they went to back to the promoter's house, where they allegedly partied into the morning and used cocaine.

Merriman came over to the home after being invited by the promoter and allegedly arrived between 8:30 - 9 AM. According to the complaint, a witness noticed him carrying "some kind of bottle," that was "filled with a liquid."

Shortly after Merriman arrived at the house Fattorini texted the promoter from a different room in the house that, "you friend just poor'd [sic] half G in my drink."

The lawsuit alleges the "G" refers to the drug, gamma-hydroxybutyrate, which is a powerful central nervous system depressant. It is commonly referred to as a "club drug" or the "date rape" drug.

The text messages entered into the lawsuit appear to show Fattorini becoming incredibly intoxicated, as she was sending nonsensical messages of mashed up letters.

The lawsuit states that Merriman, Fattorini and a friend then went to her friend's house where they continued to party.

Around 5 hours after they arrived at the friend's house, around 3:16 PM, a 911 call was placed by Fattorini's friend who claims she found the 30-year-old unresponsive.

The friend was hesitant to perform CPR, as she claimed she did not want to touch the body. When emergency responders arrived, they noted Fattorini was "half-naked with her jeans unzipped and unbottoned."

The documents claim someone may have tried to get Fattorini clothed in haste, and also noted that her bra was twisted and her "lips were blue."

The friend later told investigators that Merriman was in the room when 911 was called, and helped move Fattorini's body off the bed, but did not want it known he was present. According to the documents, Merriman was "very concerned about the media attention the incident might create since he was a celebrity." After 911 was called, the former San Diego Charger's star allegedly "escaped" from the house unseen.

An autopsy was conducted on Fattorini, but the family claims since a preliminary report claimed she died of "no foul play," more extensive tests weren't conducted.They also claim the medical examiner noted multiple bruises on Fattorini's legs, but that no photos were taken. A sexual assault test was requested, but because the autopsy was already conducted officials claimed it was not possible to conduct one properly.

Weeks after Fattorini's death, the medical examiner released the public findings of how she died, and the family obtained new text messages between the promoter and a friend of their daughter. The text message sent from the promoter appeared to directly implicate Merriman in the young woman's death, reading, "Shawn killed her ass, what a f---ing idiot." The message also allegedly claimed, "That dumbass been drugging girls for years."

The wrongful death lawsuit filed by the family is alleging battery, negligence and also a violation of the drug dealer liability act. They also want damages to be determined for the loss of their daughter's "love."

Merriman has yet to respond to the lawsuit.


Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Albany family files lawsuit in 2017 nightclub death

ALBANY, GA (WALB) - An Albany family has filed a lawsuit claiming police refused to protect their son moments before he was shot and killed.
Travion Jones’ family filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the City of Albany and city commissioners, the Albany Police Department (APD) and individual officers and the owners of the Sand Trap Nightclub, where Jones died.

Investigators said the incident happened in the club parking lot on Radium Springs Road in October 2017. Nine men have been arrested and indicted in connection with Jones’ death.

The lawsuit states Jones was involved in a large fight in the nightclub and then was told he wouldn’t leave the parking lot alive.

The lawsuit also states Jones asked two uniformed APD officers, working as security for the nightclub, to escort him to his car because of the threat.

The two officers refused him protection, and minutes later, Jones was shot and killed by his car, the lawsuit claims.

The lawsuit claims that the nightclub has been known to be a safety and welfare risk, and that police and city commissioners should have closed it before Jones’ death.

The lawsuit doesn’t cite what damages the family is seeking.

SandTrap Owner Gilbert Udoto said he had no knowledge of the lawsuit, and had no comment.

City Attorney Nathan Davis told WALB that the City of Albany denied any responsibility or liability in March, and have not seen the lawsuit.


Monday, March 25, 2019

Parents Sue Four Seasons, Bartender After Daughter Dies With 0.5 Blood Alcohol

When she died alone in her hotel room after her father’s birthday party, Autumn Rupkey’s blood alcohol level was nearly 0.5—more than five times the legal limit in Texas.

“I have never seen a case with a blood alcohol level this high,” said plaintiffs lawyer Quentin Brogdon, who’s handled civil dram shop cases for 30 years and prosecuted drunken-driving cases for two years. “It’s amazing she was even walking around at the end.”

And now Rupkey’s parents, Kevin and Pam Rupkey, allege in the lawsuit that the resort that hosted the birthday party, the Four Seasons Resort and Club Dallas at Las Colinas, and the bartender who served their daughter, who was 29, broke the law by serving her an excessive amount of alcohol. They filed their original petition in Rupkey v. Ex Dallas LLC in Dallas County’s 193rd Civil District Court on March 21.

Brogdon, a partner at Crain Lewis Brogdon in Dallas, explained that most people black out when their blood alcohol reaches 0.2, lose consciousness at 0.3, and start dying at 0.4. Autumn Rupkey might have had heightened alcohol tolerance, but there’s no defense under the law to have overserved her by that much, he said.

“It appears she would have had to have had something in the neighborhood of 17 alcoholic drinks,” Brogdon said.

The Rupkeys are suing Ex Dallas, which does business as the Four Seasons, and Martin Mora, who is a Four Seasons bartender.

The complaint said the defendants had a duty to monitor and limit the amount of alcohol they served to guests, and ensure they did not overserve. Instead, it claimed they overserved Autumn Rupkey to the point she fell down and had to be taken to her room, where she died later. The defendants should have known she was so intoxicated she was a danger to herself and others, the plaintiffs claimed, adding that these actions amounted to negligence and violated the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Code.

“The Saturday evening of the party was supposed to be a dream come true for the Rupkey family—a celebratory evening with close family and friends that would be cherished forever. Instead, defendants’ overservice of a lethal amount of alcohol to Autumn Rupkey turned the evening into a nightmare,” said the complaint, noting that from that day, Kevin Rupkey’s birthday would also be the anniversary of his daughter’s death.

The Rupkeys are suing for dram shop and negligence. They’re seeking to recover damages for Autumn Rupkey’s mental anguish and physical pain before her death, wrongful death damages for Kevin and Pam Rupkey losing their daughter, exemplary damages against the Four Seasons defendants, costs and pre- and post-judgment interest.

Four Seasons spokeswoman Vail Tolbert emailed a statement saying the hotel sent its deepest sympathies to the Rupkey family for their daughter’s tragic loss.

“This matter was thoroughly investigated by the Irving Police Department who in consultation with the Dallas District Attorney’s Office, determined there was no wrongdoing on the part of the Four Seasons,” the hotel said in the statement.

According to a article, hotel staff told police they stopped serving Autumn Rupkey when she showed signs of intoxication.

A telephone number listed in public records for Mora, the bartender, was disconnected.


Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Lawsuit claims West Ashley bar over-served customer who caused serious accident

CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - A West Ashley bar is being sued by a Berkeley County woman who claims they over-served a customer who crashed into her car, seriously injuring her.

Meagan Smalls filed the suit against the Charleston Sports Pub last Thursday. It’s regarding an incident that happened in March 2016.

According to the suit, the customer was served beer and several rounds of liquor shots.

The suit says states Christopher Smith was extremely intoxicated and still allowed to drive.

According to the suit, the bartenders at the Charleston Sports Pub on Sam Rittenberg Boulevard should have known that Smith was intoxicated.

The suit states after leaving the bar Smith drove through a construction site on the Wando Bridge on Highway 41. He apparently disregarded a flag man and crashed into a car driven by Smalls.

The suit states Smalls had to be cut out of her car and was taken to the hospital. Her attorney says Smalls had to have several surgeries.According to the suit, Smith wound up pleading guilty to felony DUI with great bodily injury.

Smalls is asking for a jury trial and wants the sports pub to pay for damages.

Perry Freeman, who owns the sports pub, declined to comment on the lawsuit.


3 weeks after teen killed in Beaufort County boat crash, mother sues bar and others

A family member of the teen who was killed in the Feb. 24 boat crash near Parris Island filed a wrongful death lawsuit Wednesday against a bar and a convenience store, as well as the hosts of a party in Beaufort where all six boaters are said to have been earlier that night.

Renee Beach, the mother of Mallory Beach, 19, is suing Luther’s on Bay Street in Beaufort, Parker’s 55 convenience store in Ridgeland and homeowners Kristy and James Wood, alleging all three provided or sold alcoholic beverages to the boaters, who were between the ages of 18 and 20.

“The parents hope that this lawsuit shines a light on the significant dangers posed by the sale or service of alcohol to minors,” Beach’s attorney, Mark Tinsley of the Gooding and Gooding law firm, said, “as well as the dangers of providing children with a place to illegally consume alcohol to the point of intoxication and then let them drive.”

A woman answering the phone at Luther’s Rare & Well Done said employees have been told not to comment on the boat crash. She also refused to transfer a reporter with The Island Packet and The Beaufort Gazette to a manager.

Greg Parker, founder and CEO of Parker’s 55 issued a statement Thursday, writing that his company takes “the responsibility of selling alcohol very seriously” including “strict policies and procedures ... to make sure we sell alcohol only to individuals who have proof that they are of legal drinking age. Every member of the Parker’s team undergoes alcohol training, and we regularly send mystery shoppers to our stores to make sure team members are carding customers who purchase alcohol.”

The lawsuit alleges that on Feb. 23, Parker’s 55 unlawfully sold alcoholic beverages to a person under 21 who then shared those beverages with others under 21. None of the boaters besides Mallory Beach are named in the lawsuit.

Later that day, the same group of people under 21 went to a party at the Woods’ home in Beaufort, where they were served alcoholic beverages, according to the lawsuit.

“The Woods knew or should reasonably have known these people were between the ages of 18 and 20” and they then let them “operate a boat with their faculties and judgment grossly and dangerously impaired,” the lawsuit reads.

After they left the Woods’ house, the group drove a boat to Luther’s, where two of them were served “alcohol, despite their being underage and intoxicated ...,” the lawsuit states.

It was after leaving Luther’s that one of the boaters crashed the boat into the Archer’s Creek bridge, ejecting Mallory Beach from the boat, causing her death, the lawsuit says.

The boat crashed into a piling of a small bridge around 2:20 a.m. just outside the main entrance to Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island.

Because the bridge spans a stretch of water about 40 yards wide, boats must slow down to thread their way between the pilings.

Beach was missing for a week before her body was found March 3 in a marsh about 5 miles from where the crash occurred. She died from drowning and trauma, according to the Beaufort County coroner.

The remaining five boaters appeared to be “grossly intoxicated,” according to a Port Royal Police Department report. All five were also injured in the crash, a Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office report said.

S.C. Department of Natural Resources are investigating the incident but, as of yet, have not brought charges

Law enforcement did not give sobriety tests to occupants of the boat because a driver had not been identified and two suspected drivers had attorneys soon after the crash, SCDNR spokesman Capt. Robert McCullough has previously said.

SCDNR has yet to speak to the two suspected drivers, he said Wednesday.

The boat crashed “at a high rate of speed,” according to first-responders speaking to dispatchers in 911 audio.

Lawsuits that allege establishments have a duty to make sure patrons who become intoxicated don’t leave the premises and endanger themselves or others are called “dram shop” lawsuits.

In recent years in South Carolina, dram shop lawsuits have forced bars to pay millions of dollars to the estates of people who have died after being struck by a person who left the bar in an intoxicated condition. Most dram shop lawsuits, however, involve cars or motorcycles — not boats.

Tinsley said law enforcement has been keeping the family informed of its investigation.

“They have done an exceptional job in gathering the evidence, nearly all of which has not been made known to the public,” he said.

The 14th Circuit Solicitor Duffie Stone has requested the case be assigned to another solicitor’s office or the state Attorney General’s Office because three of the boat’s occupants are related to employees of Stone’s office. This includes employee, Randolph Murdaugh III, a former 14th Circuit Solicitor, who continues to work under contract for the office, trying criminal cases.

The boat, a 17-foot center console, is registered to Alexander Murdaugh, according to SCDNR

A prosecuting agency has yet to be assigned to the case, McCullough said this week.

Beach has been described by family and friends as always having a smile, being kind and a lover of animals.


Thursday, March 14, 2019

Nightclub denies liability in suit alleging wrong-way driver caused fatal collision

Pop’s Nightclub denies liability in a Dram Shop suit alleging a woman died when an intoxicated wrong-way driver caused a collision on I-64.

Duyen Xin, individually and as special administrator of the estate of Lyn Chieng, deceased, and Vuong Xin filed the complaint on Jan. 8 against Miss Kitty’s Inc. and Mega Leasing Corp Inc., doing business as Pop’s Nightclub, alleging they violated the Dram Shop Act.

According to the complaint, the plaintiffs allege that on Jan. 21, 2018, Lyn Chieng was driving her vehicle westbound on I-64 in St. Clair County just after 7 a.m. when motorist Brandon Bell caused a head-on collision. Bell was allegedly intoxicated and driving the wrong way when he caused the fatal crash. Chieng died as a result of her injuries.

The plaintiffs allege the defendants unlawfully sold or gave alcoholic beverages to Bell, causing him to become intoxicated.


Pop’s Nightclub answered the complaint on Feb. 15 through attorney Michael Constance of Joley Oliver & Beasley PC in Belleville.

The defendant denies liability and asks the court to dismiss the complaint with prejudice. The defendant also “denies that said plaintiffs are entitled to judgment for any sum whatsoever.”

In its affirmative defense, Pop’s Nightclub argues that it is entitled to a set off of $100,000 against any award paid by Bell as well as any money recovered against Ball Park Village, “which is sued in Missouri for the same incident.”

The plaintiffs seek a judgment in excess of $50,000, plus costs.

They are represented by John T. Hipskind and Brady McAninch of Hipskind & McAninch LLC in Belleville.