Cases Reported by Verdict Search

17-year-old was fatally shot at after-hours BYOB night club

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12th Largest settlement in Texas as reported by Verdict Search in 2014

Settlement: $1,000,000

Case: Martin Blea, Sr., and Angelita Blea, individually and in their capacity as all of the heirs at law of Martin Blea, Jr. v. TI Club, LLC, JGC Management, LLC, and Bryan Scott Foster, No. DC-12-15045

Court: Dallas County District Court, 95th, TX

Judge: Ken Molberg

Date: 6/10/2014

Plaintiff Attorney(s): Guy I. Wade, III (lead), Derryberry Zips Wade Lawhorn, P.L.L.C., Waxahachie, TX; Daryl L. Derryberry, Derryberry Zips Wade Lawhorn, P.L.L.C., Tyler, TX

Defense Attorney(s): John Howell House (lead), Burt Barr & Associates, LLP, Dallas, TX; John Holman Barr, Burt Barr & Associates, LLP, Dallas, TX

Facts & Allegations: On May 21, 2011, plaintiffs’ decedent Martin Blea Jr., 17, his sister, age 32, and their brother, age 35, were invitees on the premises of The Pussycat Lounge, an after-hours BYOB nightclub at 101 Solo Road in Odessa. At about 3 a.m., Martin’s sister was walking from the ladies’ room toward her brothers, when an unidentified man grabbed ¬∑her in a sexually provocative manner. When she resisted, the man punched her in the fac¬∑e, knocking her down, and proceeded to assault her on the ground. Martin saw her from the dance floor and came over to intervene, and a fight ensued. Another customer, Steve Uresti, pulled out a 9-millimeter handgun and fired several shots into the air. He then fired several more shots, one of which hit Martin in the face, fatally injuring him.

In November 2012, Uresti was convicted of manslaughter in connection with Martin’s death and was sentenced to 20 years in prison.

Before the assault on Martin’s sister, the man who assaulted her had been conversing with Uresti and other patrons.
The Blea family alleged that the owners and operators of The Pussycat Lounge were TI Club LLC, JGC Management LLC, and Bryan Scott Foster.

Blea’s parents sued TI Club, JGC and Foster for premises liability. They alleged that . the security at the club was inadequate and the club’s operators failed to enforce their policy of patting down patrons and using a hand-held metal detector wand to check for weapons as patrons entered.

The plaintiffs alleged that, on the date of the incident and for several years before, the defendants owned . and operated The Pussycat Lounge (or its predecessors on the same premises) and another club, Jaguars Gold Club, at 6824 Cargo Road, less than a mile away. According to the plaintiffs, the defendants knew or should have known of the risk that “persons in the immediate vicinity” who patronized these clubs might foreseeably injure other patrons.
The plaintiffs alleged that, in the three years before the incident, police officers and sheriff’s deputies had been called repeatedly and often to 101 Solo Road and 6824 Cargo Road to investigate violent criminal conduct, including armed robbery, deadly conduct, gunfire, aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and sexual assault.

The defendants denied that they were in control of the premises. They maintained that the premises had been orally leased to someone else, an individual, who ran the club and was responsible for security.

The defendants also denied that the operators’ negligence, if any, was a proximate cause of Martin’s death. They argued that the shooting was gang-related, and they pointed to the shooting as either the sole proximate cause or a superseding cause of Martin’s injury and death.

The defendants further argued that Martin was contributorily negligent and that no responsible 17-year­old would have been at a club at 3 a.m. where people drink alcohol and where violent gang members were known to congregate.

In addition, the defense contended that the club’s security policies were followed and that, no matter what precautions are ¬≠taken, some people will find a way to get around them. “Guns don’t kill people. People kill people” was a theme of the defense.

Injuries/Damages: death; face; gunshot wound

Martin was shot below the eye with a 9-millimeter handgun. He fell to the floor and struggled to breathe until an ambulance arrived. The ambulance arrived and transported him to the hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

The paid or incurred funeral and burial expenses were $11,423.06, and the paid or incurred medical bills were $1,193.50.

The estate also claimed conscious pain and suffering for the time between the shooting and when he was pronounced dead.

Martin’s parents sought damages for past and future loss of Martin’s affection, solace, comfort, companionship, society, assistance, emotional support, and love; past and future mental anguish, grief, and sorrow; and past and future loss of the pecuniary value of Martin’s services. He was their youngest child.

Martin was a week away from graduating a year early from high school and had recently purchased a mobile car wash business from his brother. He had also taken college classes in welding. His father said he and Martin enjoyed many outdoor activities together and that Martin was a big help around the house.

Result: The case settled for the policy limit of $1 million.

Insurer(s): Scottsdale Insurance Co. for all defendants

Plaintiff Expert(s): Karim H. Vellani, security premises liability, Sugar Land, TX

Defense Expert(s): Robert L. Jackson, Jr., security/premises liability, DeSoto, TX; Robert D. Johnson, Ph.D., toxicology, Haslet, TX; Billy Koontz, gangs, Lubbock, TX

Editor’s Note: This report is based on information that was provided by plaintiff’s counsel. Defense counsel did not respond to the reporter’s phone calls.

Oilfield Accident - Workplace Safety

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The jury verdict in this case was the 6th largest verdict in Texas for a workplace safety case in 2009 as reported by Verdict Search

We obtained a significant jury verdict after a 6 day trial for the 9 year old son of an oilfield worker who was killed. Additionally, we negotiated an additional substantial settlement with the deceased’s employer based on claims of gross negligence.

We were hired to represent the boy long after the case had been filed. At the time we began representing the boy, the total offer from both Defendants (which were the deceased’s employer and the drilling operator) to resolve the boy’s claims was a little over 10% of the gross amounts ultimately received on the verdict and in settlement.

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A 28 year old young lady died as a result of the negligence of a hospital and its employees, including the nurses and hospital administrators. We were able to obtain a substantial confidential settlement for the young lady’s 4 year old son and her parents. The young lady suffocated to death because the nurses and hospital administrators ignored the doctor’s orders that a sitter be at her bedside at all times. Instead, she was left alone, rolled onto her stomach and was unable to turn back over onto her back. A hospital employee found the young lady lying face down and non-responsive. Autopsy results confirmed that she suffocated to death, an event which would not have occurred if the doctor’s orders had been followed by the nurses and hospital administrators.

Negligent Security

We represented the parents of a seventeen year old boy who was shot and killed during an altercation inside an after-hours BYOB dance club in Odessa, Texas. Prior to the time our clients’ son was shot, there had been a number of incidents of violent criminal conduct in the area immediately surrounding the club in the several years prior to this incident. The club had a stated policy of patting people down and wanding them with a hand held metal detector prior to allowing patrons to enter the club. Despite this policy, on the day in question the operators of the club allowed someone to take a gun inside the club that was used to kill our clients’ son. The operators of the club claimed, among other things, that they were not responsible for the death because the shooter was responsible for intentionally firing the gun and because the son should not have been at the club in the first place. After filing suit on behalf of our clients, about a month before the scheduled trial date we obtained a settlement on behalf of our clients in which the insurance company for the operators of the club paid policy limits to settle the case.