Patron alleges sexual battery by employee in restroom at bar. $5.42 million. Los Angeles County.

Summary

Female patron alleges she was sexually battered by a West Hollywood bar's employee in a unisex restroom; claims negligent security against the bar owners.

The Case

  • Case Name: Jane Doe v. 696 North Robertson (dba Here Lounge), et al.
  • Court and Case Number: Los Angeles Superior Court - Santa Monica / SC111853
  • Date of Verdict or Judgment: Wednesday, February 26, 2014
  • Date Action was Filed: Monday, March 14, 2011
  • Type of Action: Negligence, Premises Liability, Security, Sexual Battery
  • Judge or Arbitrator(s): Hon. Lawrence H. Cho
  • Plaintiffs:
    Jane Doe, 37, producer
  • Defendants:
    696 North Robertson (dba Here Lounge)
    Victor Cruz
  • Type of Result: Jury Verdict

The Result

  • Gross Verdict or Award: $5,420,000.
  • Net Verdict or Award: $5,420,000
  • Award as to each Defendant:

    Jury found that defendant Cruz had committed a sexual offense that harmed the female plaintiff. Jury found Here Lounge 40% liable and Victor Cruz 60% liable.

  • Contributory/Comparative Negligence: 0%
  • Economic Damages:

    Future Medical - $70,000

  • Non-Economic Damages:

    $5,350,000

  • Trial or Arbitration Time: 3 weeks
  • Jury Deliberation Time: 1 day
  • Post Trial Motions & Post-Verdict Settlements: Defense to ask for new trial and JNOV.

The Attorneys

  • Attorney for the Plaintiff:
    Taylor & Ring LLP by John C. Taylor and James W. Lewis, Los Angeles.
  • Attorney for the Defendant:
    Foley & Mansfield by Joseph V. Macha and Louis C. Klein, Los Angeles. (for defendant Here Lounge.)

The Experts

  • Plaintiff’s Medical Experts:
    Deborah Cresswell, Ph.D., clinical psychology, Los Angeles.
  • Defendant's Medical Experts:
    James Rosenberg, M.D., forensic psychiatry, Woodland Hills.
    Felice Gersh, M.D., gynecology, Irvine.
  • Defendant's Technical Experts:
    Marc Scott Taylor, DNA analysis, Ventura.

Facts and Background

  • Facts and Background:

    On March 23, 2009 plaintiff Jane Doe, a 37 year-old female, was found on the street by a good Samaritan, a block away from the location of defendant Here Lounge in West Hollywood, crying that she had been raped.  The good Samaritan called police, who took plaintiff to a medical center where her injuries were documented and DNA samples were taken.

    In December 2009, police arrested defendant Victor Cruz, a 23 year-old employee of Here Lounge, on suspicion of theft at the lounge.  He was later charged criminally with rape based in part on DNA evidence.  He denied the charges but told police investigators that he had been drinking while working.  There were two criminal trials against defendant Cruz; the first resulted in a hung jury and in the second trial a jury found him not guilty. 

    Defendant Cruz was not present at this civil trial, but jurors viewed a recorded interview of Victor Cruz with the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department and defense attorneys read Victor Cruz’s criminal trial testimony to the jury.

  • Plaintiff's Contentions:

    That she had been drinking with a friend before she entered the bar alone.  That she bought some water to drink and sat drinking it before going to use the bathroom.

    That plaintiff was sexually battered by defendant Victor Cruz while she was in a unisex restroom stall at defendant Here Lounge and that she fled from the bar after the attack.  

    That Here Lounge was negligent in its secruity; that defendant knew its patrons and others engaged in nightly sexual conduct in the restrooms at the back of the club. Further, that Here Lounge had a policy which stated at least one security guard must be in the restroom area at all times. That at the time of the incident, there was no security present in the restroom area; further, that there was video missing from the lounge's security cameras from the night of the attack. 

  • Defendant's Contentions:

    Defendant Here Lounge claimed that the encounter was consensual, and that its security was adequate. Here Lounge disputed the nature and extent of plaintiff’s damages and contended that not all of plaintiff's emotional distress was caused by the alleged rape.

Injuries and Other Damages

  • Physical Injuries claimed by Plaintiff:

    Physical injuries caused by rape with post-traumatic stress disorder.

Special Damages

  • Special Damages Claimed - Past Medical: 0
  • Special Damages Claimed - Future Medical: $70,000
  • Special Damages Claimed - Past Lost Earnings: 0
  • Special Damages Claimed - Future Lost Earnings: 0

Demands and Offers

  • Defendant §998 Offer: $150,000 (by defendant Here Lounge).

Additional Notes

Per defense counsel: " At present, we are preparing motions for new trial and for judgment notwithstanding the verdict based on numerous factors including improper conduct of plaintiff’s counsel in arguing evidence not before the jury as well as juror misconduct based upon our interviews of jurors. In addition, there were numerous grounds for these motions and/or appeal based on rulings made by the judge and improper application of premises liability law in California. Based on the information we have currently gathered, we are confident that this verdict will be nullified on appeal."

Disclaimer

This is not an official court document. While the publisher believes the information to be accurate, the publisher does not guarantee it and the reader is advised not to rely upon it without consulting the official court documents or the attorneys of record in this matter who are listed above.

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