17-YEAR-OLD WAS FATALLY SHOT AT AFTER-HOURS BYOB NIGHT CLUB
12th Largest settlement in Texas as reported by Verdict Search in 2014
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
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 face, 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-year old 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.