The Mis Tres Amigos restaurant is facing a wrongful death suit after the death of a 22-year-old man during a party on the premises. The young man was attending an after-hours get-together at the restaurant that allegedly featured marijuana and alcohol. During the party, the victim somehow hit his head and was left in a booth, unconscious. The manager apparently left the victim in the booth and continued the party, failing to call for help. The next morning, the young man was found to be unresponsive and was transported to a local hospital, where he was declared brain dead.
Is The Restaurant Liable?
The young man’s father has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the restaurant, claiming that they should have called for help earlier and had they done so, the victim might still be alive. Further, the father claims that the restaurant broke the law when it featured an after-hours party including alcohol and marijuana.
Premises liability law states that property owners are responsible for injuries that occur on their property when they fail to take reasonable care to prevent an accident. Under premises liability theories, the restaurant owners are indeed liable for providing a venue for the illegal party and for failing to treat the young man’s injuries when they occurred.
What About the Victim’s Culpability?
According to news sources, the victim had a previous conviction for drug possession in 2009. However, he had been in a treatment program and was studying to be a personal trainer at the time of the accident.
This young man may or may not have participated in the consumption of alcohol and drugs at the party. If he did, this could somewhat mitigate the liability of the property owner. However, even if a jury decided that the young man had contributed to his own accident, they could still find the property owner liable.
In California, the theory of comparative liability applies to situations in which the victim may have contributed to his or her own injuries. Comparative liability means that the victim shares some of the responsibility for the accident and the total amount of damages collected may be reduced by a certain percentage. For example, a jury could find that the young man was responsible for 30 percent of the liability for the accident. In that case, a $50,000 award would be reduced by $15,000. The restaurant owner would then be liable for the remaining $35,000.
However, if a jury decided that the young man’s actions directly led to the injury, the restaurant owner could be found to have no liability. This is not usual in premises liability cases such as this, although it remains a possibility.
Since the outcome of a jury trial is so uncertain, both parties generally settle the case outside of court. A personal injury lawyer will advise the victim’s family on the wisdom of making a settlement agreement prior to trial in such a case.