A man was recently awarded approximately $5 million by a jury stemming from an altercation between himself and security guard working at a bar in Los Angeles. Twenty-eight year old Plaintiff, Shawn Dearing (“Plaintiff”) filed a lawsuit in Los Angeles County Superior Court seeking recovery of personal injury damages, including a traumatic brain injury, against the bar who retained the services of the guard (Cabo Cantina); the bar’s management company, RMG Sunset, Inc. (“RMG”), as well as the guard’s direct employer, Global Protection Group, Inc. (“GPG”).
Plaintiff, who was reportedly heavily intoxicated at the time, was leaning up against a rail that separated the bar’s property from the sidewalk as he waited for his friends outside of a bar called Cabo Cantina around 2 a.m. A security guard retained by the bar approached Plaintiff and asked him to stop leaning up against the railing. The two parties exchanged words which eventually resulted in the security guard leaving his post and walking off bar property with Plaintiff following behind.
A supervisor for the security guard appeared and failed to de-escalate the situation. Surveillance footage from a building next door purportedly showed the guard putting something into his right fist (a fist load weapon) before the altercation became physical. The footage then showed that Plaintiff made first physical contact by slapping the guard’s hand. This provoked the guard to strike Plaintiff in the left temporal region of his head.
Plaintiff sustained a left temporal fracture from the strike and an occipital skull fracture from the back of his head hitting the sidewalk as he fell to the ground. He was hospitalized for three days following the incident, and was diagnosed with a moderate traumatic brain injury. The diagnosis was not in dispute at trial; however, the parties disagreed with respect to projected future treatment and associated life care plans.
GPG tendered the case to its insurance carrier, which declined to defend, resulting in GPG falling into default. The case therefore proceeded to trial against Cabo Cantina and RMG (collectively “Defendants”). The Defendants stipulated to agency of the security guard in a strategic move to exclude evidence of their purported negligence in screening, training and supervising the guards.
At trial, Defendants’ contested liability by contending that Plaintiff initiated the physical altercation by slapping the guard’s hand, and that thereafter; the guard had a right to defend himself.
Conversely, Plaintiff argued that the guard and his supervisor were negligent as they broke several of Cabo Cantina’s “Use of Force” policies by engaging Plaintiff after he was off bar property, failing to de-escalate the situation, and using excessive force.
From a legal standpoint, businesses that retain security guard companies for use of security (such as Cabo Cantina) may be found liable if they were negligent in the supervision or if they guard acted with excessive force.
After an eleven (11) day trial, the jury found for Plaintiff and awarded a gross award of $9,254,397.21. The award was reduced to $5,367,550.38 because the jury also found that Plaintiff was 42% at fault for the incident. Because Plaintiff’s CCP section 998 Offer for $1 million was rejected, he will also be seeking approximately $100,000.00 in recovery of expert witness fees as well as $400,000.00 in prejudgment interest.
Plaintiff was represented at trial by Robert Mansell and Amanda Derby from Mansell & Mansell, APC, located in Los Angeles, California. Defendants were represented by Sam Wyman and Richard Hatem of Wolfe & Wyman LLP, located in Irvine, California.