West Hollywood Bar |Liable for Sex Assault

     (CN) – A West Hollywood bar must pay $5.4 million to the victim of a sexual assault that occurred in a unisex bathroom stall.
     Janice H. spent an evening with a friend at bars in Pasadena and West Hollywood. After they got separated, Janice went to Here Lounge, which they had planned to visit.
     Bartenders at Here Lounge sometimes only wore underwear. The bar also used social media campaigns to promote sexual themes. On this night, the theme was “Size Matters.”
     The unisex restrooms included a urinal trough, four regular stalls, and two larger stalls that complied with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
     Security guards prevented more than one patron from entering the stalls to prevent sexual activity or drug use.
     According to Janice, no security guards were present when she used the restroom. She did not lock the door.
     Victor Cruz, a bus boy at Here Lounge, walked into her stall and pushed Janice against the wall. He forced Janice into oral and vaginal sex.
     Bleeding from the loss of her virginity, Janice called the police. Victor had ejaculated on her dress, and the DNA from the semen matched a sample from Victor.
     Janice sued Victor and Here Lounge for sexual battery, negligence, civil rights violations, and negligent hiring.
     Here Lounge tried to exclude evidence that general manager Jude Tade had fired Cruz’ brother Mario from another bar after Mario had sex with a woman in the bathroom.
     At Here Lounge, Tade rehired Mario and also added Victor to the staff. The court denied the defendants’ motion to exclude this evidence.
     The jury ruled in Janice’s favor on her battery claim against Victor and on her negligence claim against Here Lounge, awarding her $5.4 million.
     On appeal, Here Lounge argued that it did not owe Janice a duty to provide security in the restroom area.
     The Second District California Court of Appeals disagreed.
     “Having elected to employ multiple security guards and station them in the restroom area, Here Lounge assumed a duty of reasonable care with regard to the security guards’ deployment,” Judge Amy Hogue wrote.
     Hogue, a Los Angeles Superior Court judge assigned to the case, also ruled that the evidence regarding the hiring of Mario Cruz was relevant.
     “The jury could reasonably infer that Victor knew why his brother was terminated at Fiesta Cantina and that Victor had reason to view Mario’s rehiring as condoning such conduct,” she stated.
     In addition, Hogue stated that the award of damages was not excessive.
     “The examining nurse, who had conducted over 1,000 rape exams, testified that Plaintiff’s hymen was significantly torn by the “violent” penetration, and calibrated the severity of her injury as an eight on a scale of one to ten,” she wrote.
     “Plaintiff told the jury she tries to get past what happened to her but it continues to haunt her,” Hogue added. “Plaintiff has had such difficulty coming to terms with the rape, that she has been unable to discuss it with her mother or her closest friends.”

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