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Security guard struck plaintiff in violation of bar's policy: suit

Amount:

$9,254,397.21

Type:

Verdict-Plaintiff

State:

California

Venue:

Los Angeles County

Court:

Superior Court of Los Angeles County, Los Angeles

Injury Type(s):

head; head-fracture, skull; brain-traumatic brain injury; other-unconsciousness; sensory/speech-anosmia; mental/psychological-cognition(memory, impairment), impairment (memory, impairment)

Case Type:

Premises Liability - Restaurant; Worker/Workplace Negligence - Negligent Hiring, Negligent Training, Negligent Retention, Negligent Supervision; Premises Liability - Inadequate or Negligent Security

Case Name:

Shawn Dearing v. Cabo Cantina, Sunset Restaurant Management Group, CC HLWD LLC, and Does 1-100, No. BC591198

Date:

July 26, 2017

Parties

Plaintiff(s):

Shawn Dearing (Male, 28 Years)

Plaintiff Attorney(s):

Amanda L. Derby; Mansell & Mansell, APC; Los Angeles, CA, for Shawn Dearing ■ Robert W. Mansell; Mansell & Mansell, APC; Los Angeles, CA, for Shawn Dearing

Plaintiff Expert(s):

H. Fisk; M.D.; Neurology; Beverly Hills, CA called by: Amanda L. Derby, Robert W. Mansell ■ Bruce Ramm; Security/Premises Liability; Orange, CA called by: Amanda L. Derby, Robert W. Mansell ■ Lester Zackler; M.D.; Neuropsychiatry; Sherman Oaks, CA called by: Amanda L. Derby, Robert W. Mansell ■ Elizabeth Holakiewicz; R.N.; Life Care Planning; Carlsbad, CA called by: Amanda L. Derby, Robert W. Mansell

Defendant(s):

CC HLWD LLC, 

Cabo Cantina, 

Brian Anderson, 

Michael Bowman, 

RMG Sunset Inc., 

Global Protection Group, Inc., 

Sunset Restaurant Management Group

Defense Attorney(s):

Samuel A. Wyman; Wolfe & Wyman, LLP; Irvine, CA, for CC HLWD LLC, Cabo Cantina, RMG Sunset Inc., Sunset Restaurant Management Group ■ None reported; for Brian Anderson, Michael Bowman, Global Protection Group, Inc. ■ Richard C. Hatem; Wolfe & Wyman, LLP; Irvine, CA, for CC HLWD LLC, Cabo Cantina, RMG Sunset Inc., Sunset Restaurant Management Group

Defendant Expert(s):

John Dunn; Neuropsychology; Woodland Hills, CA called by: Samuel A. Wyman, Richard C. Hatem ■ Mary Jesko; Life Care Planning; San Diego, CA called by: Samuel A. Wyman, Richard C. Hatem ■ Michael Wienir; Neurology; Tarzana, CA called by: Samuel A. Wyman, Richard C. Hatem ■ Stanley Kephart; Security/Premises Liability; Phoenix, AZ called by: Samuel A. Wyman, Richard C. Hatem

Facts:

At around 2 a.m. on July 22, 2017, plaintiff Shawn Dearing, 28, a bartender for an events company and an aspiring model, was out in front of Cabo Cantina, a bar on Hollywood Boulevard, in Hollywood. As he was waiting for his friends to leave, Dearing leaned against a small rail that separated the sidewalk from the bar. As a result, a security guard that was posted in front of Cabo Cantina told Dearing to stop leaning on the rail and, eventually, an altercation arose, at which time the security guard walked around the rail, and off of Cabo's property, with Dearing following him. Surveillance video from the bar next door showed what appeared to be the guard putting something into his right fist. It also showed that Dearing made first contact with the guard when Dearing slapped the guard's hand away from him. Thereafter, the guard struck Dearing on the left side of the head, knocking him out. This caused Dearing to collapse, and the back of his head struck the sidewalk. Dearing sued the operator of Cabo Cantina, CC HLWD LLC (which was initially erroneously sued as "Cabo Cantina") and the management company, RMG Sunset Inc. (which was initially erroneously sued as "Sunset Restaurant Management Group"). Dearing alleged that CC HLWD LLC and RMG Sunset Inc. were negligent in the screening, hiring, training, supervision, and retention of the security guards. Dearing amended his complaint to add as defendants the employer of the security guards, Global Protection Group Inc.; its owner, Brian Anderson; and its employee, Security Guard Michael Bowman. However, Anderson and Global Protection Group failed to answer, and a default judgment was entered against them. Bowman was then dismissed from the case. Thus, the matter went to trial against CC HLWD and RMG Sunset only. Plaintiff's counsel contended that the security guard was negligent, as he broke several of Cabo Cantina's own use-of-force policies by contacting Dearing after he was off of the property, by failing to de-escalate the altercation, and by using excessive force. CC HLWD and RMG Sunset stipulated that the security guard was an agent in order to exclude evidence of their independent negligence under Diaz v. Carcamo, (2011) 51 Cal. 4th 1148, and accepted vicarious liability. However, their counsel contended that Dearing had been out drinking at three different bars over the preceding six hours, was at the bar at Cabo Cantina for 2.5 hours, and was very intoxicated. Thus, defense counsel argued that Dearing started a fight and lost and that Dearing was the first to make contact, so the security guard had the right to defend himself.

Injury:

Dearing was struck in the left temporal region and sustained a left temporal fracture. He also sustained an occipital skull fracture from this back of his head hitting the sidewalk. Dearing was subsequently taken by ambulance to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, in Los Angeles, where he was in and out of consciousness for three days. Dearing claimed that as a result of the blunt force trauma to his head, he suffered a moderate traumatic brain injury, resulting in a permanent loss of the sense of taste and smell (anosmia). He also claimed he suffered a mild loss of cognitive abilities, causing him to suffer a personality disorder, a loss of emotional control, and memory loss. The parties stipulated that Dearing's past medical costs totaled $57,201.09. The plaintiff's expert life care planner opined that Dearing's future medical care would total $1,908,153.88. In addition, Dearing sought recovery of damages for his past and future pain and suffering. The defense's medical experts agreed with Dearing's diagnosis, but disagreed with the respective life care plans. Thus, the defense's expert life care planner opined that Dearing's future medical care would only total $148,767.70.

Result:

The jury apportioned 42 percent liability to Dearing, and 58 percent against the security guard, and vicariously, against CC HLWD and RMG Sunset. The jury also determined that Dearing's damages totaled $9,254,397.21. After apportionment, Dearing should recover $5,367,550.38.

Shawn Dearing: $412,196 Personal Injury: Future Medical Cost; $350,000 Personal Injury: Past Pain And Suffering; $8,435,000 Personal Injury: Future Pain And Suffering; $57,201 Personal Injury: past medical costs (stipulated)

Actual Award:

$5,367,550.38

Trial Information:

Judge:

Mary Ann Murphy

Demand:

$4,750,000 at trial

Offer:

$1,000,000 (C.C.P. § 998) at trial

Trial Length:

11  days

Trial Deliberations:

1.25  days

Jury Vote:

12-0 as to negligence and damages; 10-2 as to comparative negligence

Post Trial:

The plaintiff will be seeking $100,000 in expert witness fees and $400,000 in prejudgment interest as a result of the verdict exceeding the C.C.P. § 998 offer of $1 million.

Editor's Comment:

This report is based on information that was provided by plaintiff's counsel, and defense counsel for CC HLWD LLC dba Cabo Cantina and RMG Sunset Inc. Counsel for the remaining defendants were not asked to contribute.