A few years ago, a young man went to a bar in Mount Airy NC called B52’s. The bar had switched hands over the years, and the newest version was mainly a beer hall that had bands and sold food. Truthfully, it wasn’t too bad of a place, and the owner had hired off duty police officers to work the door and help with security. What the bar really had problems with was the patrons. Some people just don’t know how to have a good time, and they go looking for trouble.
One night, a group of such trouble makers came in the bar. After only being there fifteen minutes, they had already tried to start a fight. Some of the bouncers and the owner told them to leave and escorted them out a side door. However, they came right back in the front. Once inside near the cash register, a fight started to break out again. One of the people in the bar was pushed into the glass case under the cash register. The bar owner alleged that the young man jumped onto the glass case. Either way, the case collapsed and the man was impaled.
It was a gruesome injury as he was disemboweled, and he lost a lot of blood. He was rushed to the hospital. He had multiple surgeries and lived for a few days until he finally passed away. His mother filed a wrongful death personal injury case against the Mt. Airy bar. The deceased was her only son, and she was completely devastated. One of the saddest facts of the case is that she was at the bar that night, and she saw her son in the floor. The personal injury case was hard fought. The defense had witnesses including bouncers who claimed that the deceased had jumped on the case.
On our side, we had the main piece of evidence which was the location of the wound. The wound went essentially sideways from his right kidney, through his stomach, and pierced the left kidney. We felt that this made the “jumping theory” highly unlikely. We hired a security expert from South Carolina, and a glass expert from Pennsylvania. A vocational expert and psychologist were testifying regarding the mother’s post traumatic stress. Finally, a few months before trial, we had a mock trial. A mock trial is a mini-trial in which jurors are hired from the community and they listened to the evidence. The mock trial jury struggled a lot with contributory negligence of the deceased. With two sets of witnesses saying two different things, it was tough to sort it out. Ultimately, the mock jury found for the deceased and his mother, but the verdict was lower than we would expect. Also, the amount of uncertainty gave us concern regarding liability, and we settled the case for a fair amount.
All personal injury cases are difficult, and wrongful death cases can be especially tough. During a few trips to the courthouse in Mt. Airy, we got to meet some of the Surry County residents. We thought that the jurors would be fair up there, and we look forward to our next case.
Just to update this post, I have had a lot of people just ask me for information on how injury cases are handled. So, I put together 10 Tips to try and help people with injury cases. I hope that it helps.