D.C. Bars Off the Hook for Role Before Fatal ‘Punch’

     (CN) – Several Washington bars need not face claims they served drinks to three “visibly intoxicated” guys who later allegedly sucker punched a man, causing his death, a federal judge ruled.
     Jason Ward, Justin Ruark, and Brian Giblin had been “bar-hopping” in northwest Washington into the wee hours of Sept. 23, 2011, when they crossed paths with Patrick Casey, according to the complaint.
     Soon after the trio arrived at the M Street McDonald’s at about 2:21 a.m., they got rowdy and started a verbal altercation with Patrick and his friends, his family says.
     When Patrick’s friend, David Lindsey, tried to leave the restaurant, Giblin allegedly pushed Patrick aside, chased Lindsey to the door and pushed him, so Patrick tried to break it up.
     The trio then surrounded Patrick, and Ward “sucker punched” his head, so he fell to the ground and hit his head on the concrete sidewalk, according to the complaint.
     Ward, Ruark, and Giblin then fled without alerting paramedics, the complaint states.
     Patrick died of severe head trauma and brain hemorrhaging at the hospital four days later.
     Patrick’s parents, Paul and Abigail Casey, did not discover the cause of their son’s injuries until a year and a half later, when the Metropolitan Police complied with the couple’s Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request.
     The couple sued Ward, Ruark, and Giblin, as well as the bars and McDonald’s they visited on the night Patrick was injured, McDonald’s Corp., and 20 anonymous individuals and corporations on Sept. 23, 2013, seeking damages for wrongful death and survival.
     The district court stayed the claims against defendant 1900 M Restaurant Associates Inc., which did business as Rumors Restaurant, however, after it filed a suggestion of bankruptcy on Nov. 25, 2013.
     The Caseys amended their claims on Dec. 3, 2013, and the defendants moved to dismiss.
     U.S. District Judge Richard Leon partially granted the motions last week.
     “Plaintiffs claim that March 18, 2013 was the earliest date they ‘knew, or could have known through the exercise of reasonable diligence’ the cause of Patrick Casey’s injuries and the wrongdoing by any of the defendants,” Leon wrote. “Plaintiffs, however, fail to describe their efforts to obtain such information, and fail to explain why such efforts were fruitless.”
     The Caseys knew or should have known the identity of at least one potential defendant – the M St. McDonald’s – the ruling states.
     “Put simply, plaintiffs’ argument here they did not know – and could not have known through the exercise of reasonable diligence – that their son was injured in a fight at the M St. McDonald’s is incredible,” Leon wrote. “Accordingly, I find that plaintiffs’ survival claims accrued on Sept. 23, 2011, and their wrongful death claims accrued on Sept. 27, 2011.”
     While the statute of limitations for wrongful death claims changed from one to two years on Oct. 22, 2012, it does not apply retroactively to the Caseys’ claims, according to the ruling.
     Although the plaintiffs’ negligence claim has a three-year statute of limitations and is thus timely, the Caseys’ assault and battery claim is barred under a one-year statute, the ruling states.
     “Because Casey’s death – assuming the truth of plaintiffs’ allegations – was caused by the intentional – and unforeseeable – torts of third parties, any connection to the alleged negligence on the part of the bar defendants is too attenuated to support a valid cause of action,” the judge ruled.

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