Denise Kinley and Evelyn Daniels Vs. Teasers MDR LLC
Christopher E. Faenza and Lauren A. R. Lofton obtained a defense verdict on behalf of a client restaurant owner in a negligence action involving a third-party criminal assault against one plaintiff and settled the other plaintiff's case post-verdict for less than 1 percent of the demand to the jury for the other ($7,500 settlement/$1.3 million demand).
On May 29, 2009, plaintiffs attended defendant's restaurant to watch a Lakers Playoff Game. While seated in the tavern area of the restaurant, plaintiffs and four of their friends were joined by a male and female assailant who offered to buy everyone a round of drinks in exchange for letting them sit at the table. While the two parties dined together, the female assailant went to the restroom. Upon her return, she noticed one of the plaintiffs, Ms. Daniels, flirting or bantering with her male companion. The other plaintiff, Ms. Kinley, also took a sip of her male companion's drink. Curse words were exchanged between the parties as well as a racial epithet. At some point during the evening, Ms. Kinley threw or spilled her drink on (or in the direction of) the female assailant. The manager of the restaurant asked that the parties quiet down; otherwise, they would have to leave. The parties all left thereafter without incident.
Upon entering the parking lot, Ms. Kinley began to chastise the three male members in her group about not "defending her honor". While doing this, the female assailant attempted to attack plaintiff; however, the three males were able to hold her back. The female assailant made an end-run around them and punched Ms. Kinley repeated. She was stabbed once in the process. Ms. Daniels came to Ms. Kinley's rescue and was successful in getting the female assailant to flee. Ms. Daniels, however, chased the female assailant to her car and began punching her through the car window. It was at that time that Ms. Daniels was stabbed. Emergency services were called and each plaintiff was treated at the hospital for their injuries.
During trial, the plaintiffs claimed that the restaurant should have done something to prevent the third-party criminal attack. They proffered evidence that the restaurant's one person responsible for security had left before the altercation and was not present to stop the attack. Both plaintiffs claimed significant general damages, medical expenses, as well as a loss of income. Ms. Kinley complained of significant emotional distress, PTSD, as a result of the injuries sustained and asserted that such would affect her ability to hold gainful employment in the future. Total damages sought were approximately $1.3 million for Ms. Kinley and $300,000 for Ms. Daniels.
The jury deliberated for over three days and returned a defense verdict for Ms. Daniels, based on the fact that she caused her own injury. The jury returned a verdict in favor of Ms. Kinley in the amount of $100,000. It also found comparative fault, assigning 55 percent of liability to the female assailant, 22 percent liability to Ms. Kinley, 17 percent liability to Ms. Daniels, and only 6 percent liability to the restaurant. Based on comparative fault and Proposition 51, the restaurant was responsible for approximately $50,000 of the jury award.
Following the verdict, defendant moved for a mistrial/new trial based on an error in instruction of the jury. The court was prepared to grant the request for a new trial; however, to avoid future litigation and costs to the courts and all parties, the court suggested that the parties attempt to resolve this matter informally.
Based on the significant cost bill facing Ms. Daniels, which included fees incurred by defendant's seven designated experts, and notwithstanding the jury award to Ms. Kinley, the parties agreed to forego future litigation and all claims and costs in exchange for a payment of $7,500 to plaintiffs and their attorneys.