Sunday, February 24, 2019

Henry County tavern faces wrongful death suit over patron's fatal crash

NEW CASTLE, Ind. – A Henry County tavern is the target of a wrongful death lawsuit stemming from a 2017 fatal traffic accident.

According to the suit – filed last week in Henry Circuit Court 2 – employees at the Highway Bar & Grill, 9204 S. Mill St., Knightstown, continued to serve alcohol to a “visibly intoxicated” Jason N. Phelps on the evening of March 4, 2017.

After leaving the tavern, Phelps drove to his hometown of Greenfield, in Hancock County, where he lost control of his car while traveling on Ind. 9. The vehicle rolled before striking a house.

Phelps’ girlfriend and front-seat passenger, Dalene Charron, 47, was fatally injured in the crash.

Last week’s lawsuit was filed against the Knightstown bar on behalf of the Greenfield woman’s estate, represented by her son, Shawn Chapman.

It alleges bar employees knew Phelps “had a history of abusing alcohol” when they served him on the night of the crash. The driver’s blood-alcohol content after the accident was measured at 0.233, nearly three times the legal limit for motorists, according to the suit.

Phelps, now 43, in March 2018 was sentenced to 25 years in prison – including a 20-year habitual offender penalty – after pleading guilty to causing death while driving while intoxicated.

Phelps had been convicted of the same charge in 2007 after he struck and killed a 74-year-old Greenfield woman after ingesting cocaine and marijuana.

The lawsuit – filed by Anderson attorney Steven Smith – seeks compensation for the loss of Charron’s “economic and emotional support... (and her) love and companionship."

It asks that a jury determine damages in the case.


Friday, February 22, 2019

Insurer off hook in bar fight judgment because of late notice

An insurer is not obligated to pay a $5 million judgment stemming from a bar fight where a man was severely injured because the bar’s owners did not comply with its policy’s notice provisions, says a federal appeals court, in affirming a lower court ruling.

In September 2012, a bar patron assaulted Emmanuel Kehagias at Ruth’s Bar and Grill in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina, leaving Mr. Kehagias in a permanent, quasi-vegetative state, according to Thursday’s ruling by the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Virginia, in Founders Insurance Co. v. Richard Ruth’s Bar & Grill LLC.

Mr. Ruth and his wife had purchased commercial general and liquor liability policies from Des Plaines-Illinois based Founders. Founders does not sell insurance directly and uses a wholesaler and insurance agent, through which the couple obtained the coverage, according to the ruling.

The policies required the Ruths to notify Founders “as soon as practicable for any occurrence which might result in a claim against the insured.” After they were sued on behalf of Mr. Kehagias, they forwarded a notice of representation letter they received from his attorney to their agent, but Founders was not notified.

In February 2013, the state court entered default against the bar. Founders received legal papers in May 2013, and hired an attorney to defend the Ruths in the underlying state court action. The state court then denied a motion to set aside the default ruling.

In April 2014, the court issued an order of judgment against the bar and the couple individually for $5 million. The Ruths subsequently assigned their rights in the case to Mr. Kehagias.

Founders filed suit in U.S. District Court in Charlotte, South Carolina, over the issue of coverage, and Mr. Kehagias filed counterclaims against the insurer. The district court ruled in Founders’ favor, which was upheld by a unanimous three-judge panel.

Founders “did not receive notice of the lawsuit or copies of the legal papers until the Ruths were in default in the underlying action,” said the ruling.

“Because Founders was unable to obtain relief from default, Founders did not have the opportunity to properly investigate the case, to raise defenses to the lawsuit or to negotiate a settlement without the handicap of the default position. This, in turn, led to the entry of a five million dollar default judgment against the Ruths,” the ruling said.

“Based on these facts, we find there is no genuine issue of material fact as to whether Founders’ rights were substantially prejudiced by the Ruths’ failure to provide notice of the lawsuit and copies of the legal papers,” said the ruling, in affirming the lower court’s decision.

Founders attorney Russell F. Conn, a partner with Conn Kavanaugh Rosenthal Peisch & Ford LLP in Boston, said in a statement he was gratified by the ruling.

He said the district court and 4th Circuit decisions “are entirely consistent with controlling South Carolina Supreme Court precedent, and indeed precedent nationwide, that an insured who fails timely to forward suit papers to its insurer, resulting as it did here in a $5 million default judgement, substantially prejudices the insurer’s rights and voids coverage.

“It was significant here that Founders, despite the prejudice, stepped in and defended under a full reservation, doing everything it could to remove the default, including even the taking of an appeal, while the claimant’s counsel steadfastly refused to assent to the default’s removal.”

Mr. Kehagias’ attorney could not immediately be reached for comment.


Thursday, February 21, 2019

Alleged Izzy's bar shooter sued by victim's family

A Crest Hill man who allegedly killed a bartender at Izzy’s and wounded another man in a shooting faces another lawsuit.

Alec D. Pena-Rios filed a lawsuit against Patrick Gleason, 57, of Crest Hill, for allegedly shooting and killing Daniel Rios III on March 9 at Izzy’s, 507 Theodore St.

On April 16, Pena-Rios was appointed the independent administrator of the estate of Rios, according to the lawsuit. According to the lawsuit, Pena-Rios and Carolina Rios-Lopez are Rios’ next of kin.

Rios’ death has caused them to suffer “great losses of a personal and pecuniary nature, including the loss of companionship and society” of Rios, according to the lawsuit, which seeks more than $50,000 in damages.

Gleason has been previously sued by Thomas Izquierdo, the son of Izzy’s owner Alfonso Izquierdo. Thomas Izquierdo was shot while trying to subdue Gleason after he fatally shot Rios, authorities have said.

The lawsuit accuses Gleason of shooting Thomas Izquierdo without cause or provocation, which resulted in him suffering severe and permanent injuries.

Thomas Izquierdo’s mother, Rosie, said in March that her son suffered damage to his lungs, diaphragm and liver, and still had tubes draining blood from his lungs. Doctors were unable to remove the bullet from his body.


Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Two bartenders convicted for selling alcohol to a minor- who was involved in a deadly DUI crash

MOBILE, Ala. (WKRG) - Two Mobile bartenders have been found guilty of serving alcohol to a minor- a minor who is facing a DUI manslaughter charge.

The Mobile County Sheriff's Office says the verdict was handed down in a jury trial yesterday against 22-year-old Christopher Brewer and 26-year-old Olivia Lester.

Investigators say neither bartender checked 19-year old Christopher Nelson's ID while serving him drinks. When Nelson left the bar, he caused a wreck that killed a passenger in his car, according to authorities.

Brewer and Lester were sentenced to sixth months in jail, which was suspended. They will be on informal probation for a year plus they will be responsible for $200 and court costs.


Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Wrongful death suit filed in fatal bar fight case

The widow of a West Toledo man who died following injuries sustained in a bar fight has filed a wrongful death suit against those involved in the altercation, the bartender, the bar, and the lessor.

Daniel Vasquez, 59, died Feb. 4, 2018, of blunt force trauma complications after his nephew, Arthur Richter, Jr., instigated a fight with Carl Wimpey, Jr., at Brew Ha’s bar on Telegraph Road on Jan. 31, 2018.

Mr. Vasquez’s wife, Darlene Vasquez — through her attorneys Vijay Puligandla and Bertrand Puligandla — filed the 13-count civil complaint Feb. 1 in Lucas County Common Pleas Court involving Wimpey, who is incarcerated in Marion; Richter, incarcerated in Orient; and Khalil Moussad of Temperance, Mich., who was not charged in the fight.

Also named in the complaint are the bartender, Stephanie Bradley of Monroe, Mich., Brew Ha’s LLC, and Westgate Lodging LLC for failing to take preventative measures.

Carl Wimpey, Jr., takes stand in murder case

The complaint, which has been assigned to Judge Gary Cook, seeks damages in excess of $25,000.

A message was left with Mrs. Vasquez’s attorneys.

Juries separately convicted Richter, 41, of complicity in the commission of murder, and Wimpey, 37, of felonious assault.

Richter — whose arm was in a sling — started the fight with Wimpey, and Mr. Vasquez was injured while trying to stop the altercation. Wimpey struck Mr. Vasquez in the head and face several times, according to court records.

Mr. Moussad grabbed and threw Mr. Vasquez to the floor at least twice, which caused Mr. Vasquez to strike his head on the floor with force at least once, court records show.

Additionally, Ms. Bradley, the sole bartender, failed to intervene prior to or during the fight, according to court records. The bartender did not call 911 until after the fight had concluded and Wimpey and Mr. Moussad left the bar. By that time, Mr. Vasquez was lying on the floor unconscious.

The bar also failed to take the proper security measures following a series of incidents reported at the bar. Between January, 2013, and December, 2017, about 14 fights were reported inside Brew Ha’s bar, according to the complaint. The bar owner should have known about the incidents and taken precautions against future incidents, according to court records.

The bar showed its inaction by failing to use security personnel, and failing to train Ms. Bradley to intervene in fights among customers.

In total, there were 44 assaults among the other businesses, parking lots, and sidewalks of Northridge Plaza. The owner, Westgate LLC, also should have taken reasonable precautions to prevent future incidents, such as using security personnel, according to court records.

Aside from the death of Mr. Vasquez, his family has suffered emotionally and financially, records show.

Mrs. Vasquez suffered approximately $9,000 in lost wages as she was unable to work for three months. She then lost her job that paid approximately $35,000 a year, and now receives disability pay. She additionally receives medical attention for her anguish, court records state.

Mrs. Vasquez receives approximately 25 percent of her husband’s pension from Ford Motor Co.

The Blade reached out to Brew Ha’s bar. Attorney names and numbers were not available for those listed in the complaint.


Friday, February 15, 2019

Parents of underage exotic dancer sue club after DWI death

A Houston family has sued a nightclub for allegedly serving alcohol to their underage daughter, an exotic dancer there, before she died in a wreck in June 2017.

The parents of Alanna Luengas allege that the Splendor Gentleman’s Club in the Willowbrook area routinely provided the 18-year-old dancer drinks to “loosen up,” then allowed her to get in her car at the end of the night on June 25.

When she crashed, she had a blood-alcohol concentration of .23, nearly three times the legal limit, according to the lawsuit.

“Our grief is barely tolerable,” her parents, Jade James and John Luengas, said in a statement. “She was beautiful, funny, remarkably self-confident, friendly and had a way of putting a smile on everyone’s face. It’s impossible for our hearts to understand that we will never touch her, smell her, or see her ever again.”

The suit seeks $10 million in damages.

Tory Taylor, an attorney representing the club, declined to comment, citing the pending litigation. The club has denied the allegations in written responses filed in court.

“This case is a long way from over,” Taylor said.

The Luengas family’s attorneys said that for most of the night, the teen was with a 55-year-old who was a “frequent, and favored, customer of Splendor.”

Managers brought free alcoholic drinks and shots to the table, the lawsuit alleges. The patron then bought more. He paid for a total of 17 alcoholic beverages and a bottle of champagne, according to the lawsuit.

“Splendor managers and waitstaff served Alanna with many drinks,” the second amended petition of the lawsuit states. “As a result, Alanna became visibly drunk, left Splendor in her vehicle, and met her death shortly after.”

The night of the crash, Splendor wasn’t enforcing a policy requiring workers to sign out with their managers, the lawsuit alleges.

Luengas got in her car around 2 a.m., even though she clearly “presented a danger to herself and others,” the lawsuit states.

Luengas made an unsafe lane change while driving home in the 11600 block of Katy Freeway. She hit a vehicle, lost control and then hit a second vehicle, according to police reports. She then struck a concrete barrier head on and died, her parents’ attorneys said.

The teen’s parents argue that her employer had a duty to take reasonable care to prevent her from driving when she left the club. They weren’t aware that she was working there until the night of the crash, and have since heard that their daughter intended to stop working there after about one month of employment. The club’s operation’s manager said he had no comment on the lawsuit.

Luengas was legally of age to work at the club. Previous efforts to raise the age have failed or died in committee.

Splendor became the source of a Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission investigation months after the crash. The agency received an anonymous citizen complaint in February 2018 regarding the wreck and conducted undercover operations at the establishment. Investigators didn’t find any violations and the complaint was closed, spokesman Chris Porter said.

The club has been fined on several occasions, according to state records. Between 2002 and 2011, Splendor paid more than $44,000 in fines for violations including soliciting alcoholic beverages, possessing/permitting the possession of drugs, lewd acts or exposure of a person and place or manner of prostitution. No violations have been recorded since 2011.

James and Luengas said they hope the lawsuit will help them discover exactly what happened to their daughter that night, and to hold the club responsible.

“By doing so, we hope that this lawsuit will result in a meaningful change in how this particular club operates, as well as any other clubs that choose to hire 18-year-olds to work for them,” they said. “If this lawsuit prevents even one family from having to go through the extreme pain and anguish that we have endured, then it is the least we can do to honor Alanna’s memory.”


Thursday, February 14, 2019

Lawsuit: Lack of security responsible for shooting at Dothan club

Dothan (WTVY)-- A lawsuit claims a Dothan nightclub failed to provide adequate security resulting in a shooting that left a man wounded.

In the suit, Rashad Spencer claims an armed assailant entered the club on November 18 of last year and began firing. Spencer said he suffered serious wounds and, afterwards, emotional distress.

“(Imani Lounge) knew or should have known that criminal activity on the premises was preventable by adequate security measures,” the suit states. It also points to a history of violence at the bar on North Foster Street bar.

In August 2017 Hehiheh Bara-Asah Hehiheh Yisrael died from injuries sustained in Imani's parking lot.

In that case, police charged Marcus Jamael Hill with murder though a Houston County Grand Jury later indicted him on a less serious manslaughter charge.

Investigators say Hill struck Yisrael who fell and hit his head on concrete pavement, causing the fatal injuries.

In his lawsuit, Spencer seeks “damages against (Imani Lounge) for the personal injury, pain and suffering, medical expenses, emotion distress, expenses of hospitalization, medical care and

The club will likely respond to the claims in the next few days.

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Alleged rape victim sues Atlanta's Opera Nightclub, citing safety concerns and poor staffing

ATLANTA — The woman behind the controversy surrounding rape allegations at Atlanta’s Opera Nightclubhas filed a lawsuit against the venue, claiming that there wasn’t enough security that would have protected her and others from assault during the sold-out show she attended.

Jasmine Eiland spoke publicly for the first time on Tuesday, after facing death threats and online victim shaming, according to her lawyer. Eiland said she doesn’t want to become the face of sexual assault, but came forward hoping that this will help other women understand they are not alone.

Attorney L. Chris Stewart and Jasmine Eiland. Eiland has filed a lawsuit against the Opera Nightclub after she was allegedly assaulted on the dancefloor and claimed there wasn't enough security to protect her.

"When it comes to cyberbullying and victim shaming ... I want to let you guys know that I'm not going to tolerate it. I won't put up with it," Eiland said. "I'm going to fight. I'm a victim, but I'm a survivor as well."

The St. Louis woman's story went viral after she posted a series of Facebook Live videos that showed a man allegedly assaulting her on the dance floor of the Midtown nightclub on Jan. 19, during a presale, sold-out show with August Alsina headlining. The videos, shared hundreds of times online, showed her with the suspect, 34-year-old Dominique Williams.

"We also believe the security cameras weren't working so thank God she was on Facebook Live," said Eiland’s attorney, L. Chris Stewart. "We know for a fact, all of the security guards were not working, were not paid to work and they knew this ahead of time because the tickets were pre-sold .... Per club policy and per every standard in the industry, security intervenes if a person is too intoxicated, or drugged or inebriated."

In the videos, Eiland is reportedly shown in the middle of the dance floor with Williams behind her, crying “somebody help me” with tears rolling down her face. While the videos have been removed, several versions still exist online.

Williams, 34, turned himself in on aggravated sodomy charges to Fulton County Jail on Jan. 29, according to Atlanta Police. He has been behind bars since then without bail.


Sunday, February 3, 2019

Wrongful death suit in killing of Daniel Rowe declared mistrial 20-year-old shot, killed while taking out Blind Ra

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - During jury selection in a wrongful death lawsuit connected to the murder of a 20-year-old Riverside restaurant employee, a mistrial was declared.

It's unclear why.

Daniel Rowe's family is suing the owners of the former Blind Rabbit restaurant on King Street where Rowe was murdered while taking out the trash more than three years ago.

All parties will be back in court March 4, according to court records.

Rowe was shot and killed July 22, 2015, in the alley behind the Blind Rabbit.

The family's wrongful death suit names 901 King Street LLC and Accubuild, owners of the restaurant that closed last year.

After two years of denying any role in Rowe's death, Erron Coleman pleaded guilty to murder and was sentenced last year to life in prison. Devonte Hanford was sentenced to second-degree murder and is serving 20 years in prison for his role in the death.

Rowe's family had expressed frustration that it took time to bring charges against Coleman and Hanford, but after Coleman's sentencing, they said they are thankful because they know so many murders go unsolved.

Rowe's parents attended every court appearance of the criminal proceedings against Coleman and Hanford, who were separately charged in their son's death. They often wore ribbons in their son's memory.


Saturday, February 2, 2019

Kentucky bar accused of over-serving driver in wrong-way crash that killed Metro Detroit family of 5

DETROIT - A Kentucky bar is accused of over-serving a man who killed a Metro Detroit family of five in a wrong-way crash in Lexington, officials said.

Horseshoes Kentucky Grill & Saloon has been issued a show cause order for serving alcohol to Joey Bailey, 41, of Georgetown, before he caused the crash that killed the Abbas family and himself, according to authorities.

The Lexington Alcoholic Beverage Control Office gave the bar notice this week of an alleged violation of selling alcoholic beverages to patrons who are under the influence.

Bailey was driving the wrong was on northbound I-75 around 2:30 a.m. Jan. 6 when he struck the Abbas family's Cadillac Escalade head-on, according to police. The crash caused the SUV to catch fire, and all five family members -- Issam Abbas, 42; Dr. Rima Abbas, 38; and their children, Ali, 14; Isabella, 13; and Giselle, 7 -- were killed.

A toxicology report from the Fayette County Coroner's Office showed Bailey had a blood-alcohol level of .306 at the time of the crash, which is four times the legal limit.

Investigators from the Lexington Police Department said Bailey had been drinking at Horseshoes and another bar outside of Lexington on the night of the crash.

Bailey left Horseshoes and drove his 2015 Chevrolet Silverado onto the northbound lanes of I-75 at the North Broadway/Paris Pike ramp, police said. Several drivers reported passing or avoiding the pickup truck as he drove the wrong way with one headlight out.

The crash happened in the left lane about 6 miles from where Bailey entered the freeway.

Police said Bailey had been driving about 70-80 mph at the time of the crash.

A pre-hearing conference between the Lexington ABC office and Horseshoes is scheduled for Feb. 19.

A separate investigation by Kentucky ABC is ongoing.

Here is a statement from the bar:

"This is such a horrific event with this tragic loss of life for all of the families involved. We know that law enforcement is investigating the facts surrounding this and we have cooperated with them as they have requested. We have turned this over to our representative to have the facts determined, and we will have no more public comment at this time."


Friday, February 1, 2019

Blue Jays prospect Kacy Clemens suing Texas bar alleging assault

Toronto Blue Jays prospect Kacy Clemens and fellow minor-leaguer Conner Capel have launched a civil lawsuit against a Houston bar, alleging they were assaulted by staff members shortly after arriving at the venue on New Year’s Eve.

According to a petition filed this week in Harris County district court, both men claim they suffered injuries at the Concrete Cowboy establishment and are seeking US$200,000 in damages.

"It’s not a money issue," lawyer Randy Sorrels said Thursday from Houston. "It’s a changing of the culture, closing it down. If these people offer to close their bar down, this case would be dismissed pretty quickly."

The petition claimed the bar "is notorious for its staff and bouncers’ aggressive, rude, and violent treatment of its patrons."

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Clemens, a 24-year-old first baseman, split last season between the single-A Lansing Lugnuts and Dunedin Blue Jays.

Clemens hurt his right elbow and suffered swelling to his arm, Sorrels said, while Capel suffered a head injury along with cuts and bruises.

"There is concern that it could affect their careers, but we don’t know at this point in time," Sorrels said.

Police arrested one of the bouncers for assault and found no evidence that Clemens or Capel were intoxicated, the petition said.

Clemens was drafted by Toronto in the eighth round of the 2017 MLB June amateur draft from the University of Texas at Austin. Capel is a 21-year-old outfielder in the St. Louis Cardinals organization.

According to the petition, after Clemens and Capel arrived at the venue, they were told to move away from the bar area by a bouncer.

Clemens and Capel complied, but the bouncer "suddenly and violently began attacking Capel and Clemens together in an attempt to throw them out of the bar," the petition said, before other staff members joined in.

Allegations in the petition have not been proven.

The venue’s voicemail was not accepting new messages and an email was not immediately returned.

Clemens’s father, Roger Clemens, played 24 seasons in the major leagues and was an 11-time all-star. He won the American League Cy Young Award on seven occasions, including both years he played in Toronto (1997, 98).

An email left with the Blue Jays’ media relations department was not immediately returned.

A formal response to the action was expected within 60 days, Sorrels said.