$2.75 Million Settlement for Inadequate Security Resulting in Assault

On March 30, 2002, the plaintiff, David Artis, who was 25 years old, went to White Castle on Elizabeth Avenue in Newark at approximately 1:30 a.m. He and two friends went into the restaurant. The two friends got on line, and Mr. Artis went into the men’s room. While he was in the rest room, the two friends became involved in a fight with two other unidentified patrons. When plaintiff came out of the rest room, the four were on the floor, fighting. Mr. Artis went to the aid of his friends, and hit one of the other participants with a bottle. The fight then was stopped by another unidentified person. It was determined that everyone should go outside, and this should be settled with one person from each side fighting a “fair one,” which means a fist fight. When they went outside, the man whom Mr. Artis hit with the bottle, got a gun and shot the plaintiff in the chest. The bullet severely damaged his spinal cord at the T-4 level, rendering him paralyzed from the mid-chest down.

White Castle had a surveillance camera system to record the activity on their property. It was not monitored, and was not used to anticipate confrontations, or to stop them. It was simply used to record the activity. For many years, White Castle had employed armed, uniformed, off-duty Newark police officers as security guards at this restaurant during the overnight hours; this due to their realization of the increased security risks and potential for trouble late at night. The main officer involved in working at this location, and providing others to work, retired at the end of 2001. Although White Castle representatives went to the Newark police precinct to try and recruit others, they could not get any police officers to work for them. They refused to hire private security guards, and although they were in the process of purchasing an interactive security system, they knew it would not be available for several months. White Castle elected to stay open 24 hours per day, 7 days a week during this period even though they knew they did not have adequate security.

Defendant White Castle claimed Mr. Artis was responsible for his injuries, since he involved himself in the fight, and used a bottle to strike one of the participants. They also claimed Mr. Artis had a gun when he was shot, and may have provoked the shooter. The Plaintiff denied he had a gun, and he only participated in the fight to assist his friends, since there was no security to prevent a fight or stop one once it started.

Mr. Artis is paralyzed from the level of his mid-chest downward. He has no bowel or bladder function. He developed fused hips as a complication of his paralysis, and underwent surgery to improve hip movement. He has had pressure sores (bed sores) and wounds at the area of his hip surgeries. He has had numerous hospital admissions to address these issues.

Mr. Artis was a student at the Chubb Institute, enrolled in a computer Web Design program. He could not complete his course of study due to his injuries, and has been unable to return to the program due to his medical complications. He anticipates returning to school in early 2007, as his wounds are now adequately healed for him to participate in this program. Mr. Artis’s vocational expert opined that he would have earned approximately $50K per year as a Web Designer, but in his compromised condition, even when he returns to work, he will only be able to earn approximately $20K per year.

A Life Care Planner evaluated Mr. Artis’ medical, equipment and assistance needs, and offered the opinion that he will require in excess of 3 million dollars to pay those costs over his lifetime. The Defendant’s Life Care Planner estimated the cost to be approximately 1.5 million dollars, and their economist reduced both their Life Care Plan and plaintiff’s employment losses to a total economic loss of $2M over his lifetime.

The case was scheduled for trial on October 3, 2006. David Fried settled the case during a pre-trial settlement conference, in the amount of 2.75 million dollars.