Friday, August 26, 2016

Palo Alto family of man dead from bouncer's punch sues downtown night club (San Jose, CA)


August 7th, 2015
SAN JOSE -- The family of a Palo Alto man who died from a bouncer's punch outside a downtown San Jose night club in late March has filed a wrongful-death suit against the business, alleging that the bouncer was not properly licensed for his job.

Filed Thursday on behalf of 24-year-old's Danny Esquivel's parents, the suit seeks unspecified damages from the Myth Taverna and Lounge ownership for what they characterize as an unprovoked assault along with negligence by the business for failing to maintain a safe environment and for hiring security personnel who did not have either private security officer or security guard certification from the state.

"Club security has to change. They have to hire qualified, trained people, especially since they're in the business of selling liquor, of un-inhibiting people," said San Jose-based attorney Richard Alexander, who filed the suit.

Multiple calls to the business Thursday went unanswered, and the voice mailbox was full.The bouncer, Jose Bonilla Rodas, 28, of East Palo Alto, was charged with involuntary manslaughter in the March 28 death and is free on $75,000 bail. His next court date is Wednesday .A check of state records for Bonilla -- the only named defendant among the security staff -- confirmed the lack of licensure alleged in the suit, which stems from an encounter between Esquivel and Myth Taverna security staff after they escorted him out of the club at Post and San Pedro streets for reportedly getting into a clash with someone inside.

Once outside, police and witnesses said an argument ensued that ended with Bonilla punching Esquivel, who fell to the ground and was knocked unconscious.

Friends who were with Esquivel put him into a car and eventually drove him to Stanford Hospital, where he was pronounced dead later that morning. Palo Alto police responding to the hospital determined that the cause of his death occurred in San Jose.

Esquivel's death was not publicly deemed a homicide until more than two months passed, when San Jose detectives arrested Bonilla on June 5. The coroner's office determined Esquivel died from a skull fracture to the back of his head and "blunt-force craniocerebral injuries due to fall due to physical altercation."

"All they do is hire muscle. What does muscle do? Muscle does muscle," Alexander said. "A kid shouldn't die."


San Jose fatal punch: Bouncer gets eight months in jail for Palo Alto man's death outside bar

By Robert Salonga,
POSTED: 08/19/2016 05:01:52 AM PDT | UPDATED: 7 DAYS AGO

Jose Bonilla Rodas, 28, of East Palo Alto (Robert Salonga)


Aug 7:
San Jose: Palo Alto family of man dead from bouncer's punch sues downtown night club
Jun 6:
San Jose: Bouncer arrested in March death of Palo Alto man outside downtown club
Mar 31:
San Jose: Police seek witnesses to man fatally injured outside downtown nightclub
Mar 28:
Man dies at Stanford Hospital after altercation in downtown San Jose

SAN JOSE -- A former bouncer for a downtown San Jose nightclub was sentenced Thursday to eight months in county jail in connection with a confrontation last year where he punched a patron who later died.

Jose Bonilla Rodas, 29, of East Palo Alto, had long pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter in the March 28, 2015 death of 24-year-old Danny Esquivel of Palo Alto. Judge Arthur Bocanegra ordered the jail term and an ensuing three years of probation.Rodas expressed remorse for his act during the court hearing, but to Esquivel's family and friends, many of whom gave tearful testimonies known as impact statements, the sentence was too lenient.


Danny Esquivel, 24, of Palo Alto (Robert Salonga)

"He gets an eight-month sentence and I have a lifetime sentence without Danny," said Blanca Martinez, Esquivel's mother. "His family will still be able to hear from him, see him, and we don't have that."Esquivel was at the Myth Taverna and Lounge at Post and South San Pedro streets in the early-morning hours of March 28 when he was escorted out for reportedly clashing with someone inside. Once outside, police and witnesses said an argument ensued that ended with Bonilla punching Esquivel, who fell to the ground and was knocked unconscious.  Friends who were with Esquivel put him into a car and eventually drove him to Stanford Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead later that morning. The coroner's office determined Esquivel died from a skull fracture to the back of his head and "blunt-force craniocerebral injuries due to fall due to physical altercation." by Esquivel's family against the Myth Taverna is still pending. In the filing, the family accuses ownership and management of failing to maintain a safe environment and hiring unlicensed security personnel. 

This newspaper confirmed that Bonilla did not have a state license known as a "guard card" that affirms a baseline clearance to perform security work.Deputy District Attorney Michael Vidmar said Bonilla will likely serve four months of his total sentence. Sentencing guidelines in California allow convicts with no prior felony history to be eligible for what is known as half time.

Vidmar said it was clear from the circumstances of the case that Bonilla had to be held responsible for Esquivel's death.

"If it wasn't for the aggressive act carried out by the defendant," he said, "we would not have had the loss of life that we did."

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Hopkins Icehouse sued over drunk driving fatality (Texarkana, AR-TX)



September 14th, 2015

A wrongful death suit filed in connection with a fatal 2013 drunk driving crash casts blame on a popular downtown Texarkana watering hole.

Hopkins Icehouse bar and restaurant, the bar’s owners, and Chad Caldwell are among the defendants named in a suit filed Friday in Miller County on behalf of Sheron Hawkins by Texarkana lawyers Chad Trammell and Hawley Holman. Caldwell plead guilty last year in Bowie County to two counts of intoxication manslaughter and one count of intoxication assault. He is currently serving a 20-year sentence.

Caldwell ran a red light at the intersection of State Line Avenue and 14th Street in Texarkana, Texas in the early hours of Sept. 29, 2013. Caldwell’s jeep slammed into a car being driven by Tameka Pavon, 38. Pavon and passenger Jercarlos Hawkins, 34, were killed. A second passenger in Pavon’s car, Genaro Camacho, 28, suffered a debilitating brain injury from which he is unlikely to fully recover.

The suit alleges Caldwell drank heavily at the Texarkana, Ark., bar before getting behind the wheel and causing the wreck in Texarkana, Texas.

“On Sept. 28, 2013, and continuing to Sept. 29, 2013, defendant Caldwell arrived at Hopkins Icehouse Bar and consumed approximately 20 beers and three to five mixed drinks,” the lawsuit alleges. “Defendant Hopkins Icehouse Bar continued to serve defendant Caldwell intoxicating beverages well after he became visibly intoxicated. Defendant Hopkins Icehouse Bar allowed defendant Caldwell to leave its premises in a state of visible intoxication without making any attempts to ‘sober him up.’”

The lawsuit claims Caldwell’s blood alcohol level was .301 when it was tested at 3:22 a.m. on the morning of the crash. In Texas and Arkansas it is illegal to drive with a blood alcohol level of .08 or higher.

The suit accuses Hopkins of negligence for selling alcohol to Caldwell when he was clearly drunk and for failing to train staff as to how such a situation should be handled. Caldwell is accused of negligence for failing to drive in a safe manner, for failing to keep a proper lookout, for failing to drive at a reasonable rate of speed, and for driving while intoxicated.

Sheron Hawkins is asking for a damages award for Jercarlos Hawkins’ suffering before death, medical expenses, funeral expenses, loss of life and for “mental anguish suffered in the past and reasonably expected to be suffered in the future by the wrongful death beneficiaries.”

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Blue Martini Boca Raton: Lawsuit Over Fight in VIP Section (Boca Raton, FL)

August 31st, 2015

Boca Raton’s Blue Martini is the go-to spot for Palm Beach County’s raging middle-agers — sun-cured old dudes looking for their next ex-wife and Botox-boosted ladies riding Appletini binges to bad decisions. So you can imagine that the customers at the Town Center bar expect a certain level of class and safety at their establishment.

But according to a lawsuit recently filed in Palm Beach Circuit Court, an argument that seemed straight out an episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm blew up into a violent situation.

Harris Peace had a whole night planned at the Blue Martini on December 8, 2011. According to court documents, the Maryland resident called ahead to reserve a table in the VIP section, a roped-off section of the bar manned by security to keep the scrubs at bay.

That evening, Peace and his group arrived at the bar and posted up at the VIP table. “Mr. Peace left the VIP area to use the restroom located in the general population section of the bar,” the complaint states. “When Mr. Peace returned from the restroom he attempted to enter the VIP area, but a Blue Martini employee denied him access.”

It turns out Peace was “attempting to enter through the ‘exit’ and he needed to utilize the ‘entrance’ to re-access the VIP area,” the employee informed the customer, according to the complaint.

Peace walked around and entered through the entrance, despite the fact that he’d watched the employee allow other members of his party waltz in and out of the exit. Likely channeling his inner Larry David at the alleged hypocrisy, Peace asked the employee why others got to ingress as they pleased while he’d been rerouted.

“After an unhelpful response from the employee and a rude exchange of words, Mr. Peace turned to walk away,” the complaint states. “As Mr. Peace was in the process of walking away the Blue Martini employee initiated an unprovoked violent attack, grabbing Mr. Peace by the shirt and repeatedly punching him in the face.”

Peace claims that as he was getting hauled out of the bar, other employees jumped in on the melee, “punching and kicking Mr. Peace in the face and body.”

Peace’s lawsuit accuses the bar of negligence. His attorney did not return a call for comment (We'll update this post if he does). When New Times dialed Blue Martini, a woman who identified herself as a manager declined to comment before hanging up.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Manager says club will fight lawsuit by shooting victim (Orangeburg, SC)


September 6th, 2015

A man injured in an August incident at an Orangeburg nightclub in which one person was killed is suing the club's owners for negligence in allowing a "culture of lawlessness" to prevail at the business.

Maurice Jones, who was one of three people injured by gunshots during the early morning Aug. 15 incident, filed the lawsuit Aug. 26 against John W. Carter, Walter A. Pruitt and the Pit Stop Pub.

The lawsuit claims the defendants "allowed a general condition of lawlessness to exist on the premises, thereby putting patrons at risk of serious bodily injury, and that the risk was both known ... and reasonably foreseeable to them, based on the long history of violent crimes committed on the premises."

"If the alcohol licensing board can't close it, it is going to be individuals filing lawsuits and forcing them to change their ways," Jones' attorney Janek Kazmierski said.

"We will fight it," Pit Stop Pub Manager Bobby Barfield said, describing the lawsuit as "frivolous."

"Mr. Jones is wrong. He is completely wrong," Barfield said.
The lawsuit comes on the heels of a fatal shooting Aug. 15 at the Pit Stop Pub, located about two miles south of Orangeburg. Nazdric Gates, 30, of Mt. Airy, North Carolina, was charged with killing 22-year-old Christavius De'Shean Darby of Orangeburg.  Gates was taken into custody Aug. 26 by a joint task force made up of the U.S. Marshals Service and the Colorado Fugitive Task Force. He was found in Colorado Springs, Colorado.  Gates faces a murder charge and three attempted murder charges as well as a weapons charge. He has yet to appear in court in Orangeburg County.  The eight-page lawsuit contends the defendants "took no actions to make improvements to the premises to make them reasonable safe for ... invitees."  The lawsuit goes on to say the defendants were "willful, wanton, reckless, grossly negligent and negligent" in failing to take the necessary precautions such as increasing security at the club and properly training employees to respond to criminal activity.  Jones is seeking actual and punitive damages. A jury trial has been requested.  Kazmierski said his client was shot through the left knee and was grazed on the right knee.
"He is slowly recovering," the attorney said. "His left leg is propped up ... and there is lack of sensation in the left leg below the knee. It is a significant injury. Whether he walks normally again is a question only time will tell."
He said Jones also suffered a flesh wound to his right upper hip and left shoulder.
Jones was at the pub with a relative and was shot as he was getting ready to leave the premises, Kazmierski said.
"He was not involved in any of the altercations and neither was the family member. He was truly an innocent bystander," the attorney said.  Barfield feels the Pit Stop is being unfairly singled out.

"Why just us?" he said. "I hear stories about every other club around all the time, but we are the ones in the paper. We don't have more or less trouble than anyone else."  Incidents occur because of "a few bad apples," Barfield said, adding that 98 percent of the club's clients "are good people."

"They don't cause any trouble," he said. "They dance, have a good time and go home."
"We try to weed them out, but you can't read minds before something happens," Barfield said, noting those who cause trouble are thrown out of the club by security.  Pit Stop Pub has five security personnel working on Friday nights and seven on Saturday nights, he said.

"We can't be everywhere at all times and see everything," he added.

Barfield said Orangeburg's Williams & Williams Law firm will represent the defendants in the case. The law firm declined comment Friday.  Witnesses at the club on Aug. 15 say the shooter was in a physical altercation with a group of men, according to an Orangeburg County Sheriff's Office incident report. The men jumped the person matching Gates’ description in the parking lot behind the Pit Stop Pub.  That’s when Gates allegedly opened fire on the men who had jumped him, then drove away in a tan Saturn with dark-tinted windows and chrome-rimmed tires.  Darby, who was fatally shot, was a bystander, witnesses said.

The lawsuit points to alleged criminal activity including shootings, stabbings, assaults, excessive drinking and loitering at the club over the past year.

Thus far, Jones has been the only one to file a lawsuit, Kazmierski said. However, he said the Darby family is also planning to file a lawsuit once their estate is established. Kazmierski said this process could take two months or more.
According to the Orangeburg County Sheriff's Office, deputies responded to Pit Stop Pub an average of 1.3 times a month over the past 11 years and that number has increased to twice a month this year.
Earlier this year, three men were charged in two separate assaults that took place during a fight at the nightclub. One person ended up in ICU after the altercation.
A few days before the fatal shooting, two people suffered stab wounds at the club and one had a broken jaw.

Johnathan Gore, who lives near the Pit Stop Pub, appeared before Orangeburg County Council once in June and again in August expressing his concerns about the club and his desire to have it shut down. Other concerned citizens have also spoken out against the club.

County officials say they are reviewing various ordinances to help address the situation with the club.
This story has been corrected to reflect Maurice Jones is not a former employee of the Pit Stop Pub