Friday, September 29, 2023
Courthouse News Service
Friday, September 29, 2023 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Bar Sued Over Drunken Death Wins Extension

(CN) - A bar deserves more time to face claims related to the death of a drunken businessman who allegedly fell to his death in Atlantic City, N.J., a federal judge ruled.

Firewaters, a bar in the Tropicana Casino & Resort, had served Brian Harrison even though he was visibly intoxicated on Jan. 29, 2012, according to the amended complaint filed by his parents and siblings.

Harrison, who lived in Warminster, Pa., then allegedly went to the Trump Plaza Hotel, where he drank more.

Security footage shows that Harrison entered the hotel's Cafe Sbarro at 2:29 a.m. on Jan. 30, and never left, according to the complaint.

His family said Harrison was exiting the cafe's restroom when he saw a door marked with a bright neon exit sign.

As Harrison passed through, the door allegedly closed and locked behind him, trapping him within a valet compartment area.

Harrison then "fell several stories down a gaping hole in the floor," and valet worker Robert Duenskie discovered him covered in blood and "moaning" on the ground at about 3:12, according to the complaint.

His family said Harrison ultimately died from his injuries, and that an investigation later revealed that the exit door's alarm system was not activated the night Harrison opened it.

They sued the hotel, the cafe, Firewaters and two of the operators of that bar: Hoot Owl Restaurants and Adam Good LLC.

After receiving no response from Good and Firewaters, the Harrisons moved for default judgment on April 17. The next day, Good and Firewaters asked for an extension of time to reply, explaining that "clerical error and administrative confound" prevented them from timely filing a response.

U.S. District Judge Robert Kugler granted the defendants an extension Tuesday.

"Defendants were served with a summons and complaint on March 7, 2013, and thus were obliged to file a responsive pleading within 21 days," Kugler wrote. "Thus, their current motion was filed approximately three weeks after that deadline. While this is not an insignificant length of time, the court finds that the delay will have little impact on the judicial proceedings, given that there are multiple defendants in this case who did timely file responses to plaintiff's amended complaint; thus, the civil action as a whole has proceeded meaningfully in defendants Firewaters' and Adam Good's absence. For similar reasons, the court does not conclude that granting defendants' motion would prejudice plaintiffs in this ongoing litigation. Finally, while the explanation for the delay, 'clerical error and administrative confound,' is opaque and not particularly compelling, the court notes that defendants filed their motion for extension of time immediately after counsel entered an appearance on their behalf. Thus, it appears that defendants are acting in good faith, even if their inability to retain counsel within the original 21-day time period remains largely unexplained. For these reasons, the court finds that defendants' failure to timely respond to plaintiffs' amended complaint was due to excusable neglect, and thus it will grant defendants' motion under Rule 6(b)(1)(B)."

Good and Firewaters must respond to the Harrisons' complaint by May 8, according to the ruling.

Categories / Uncategorized

Read the Top 8

Sign up for the Top 8, a roundup of the day's top stories delivered directly to your inbox Monday through Friday.