Los Angeles, Calif.—Taylor & Ring, a Los Angeles-based trial law firm, secured a published decision from the California Court of Appeal in Janice H. vs. 696 North Robertson dba Here Lounge and Victor Cruz, which clarifies the responsibility of public venues to provide proper security to their patrons. In 2009, Janice H. was sexually battered and raped at Here Lounge, a nightclub in West Hollywood, by staff member Victor Cruz. The club did not monitor its security guards, allowing them to wander from their designated areas, which were monitored to prevent more than one patron from entering bathroom stalls at the same time. The club also knew that it boasted a dangerous environment for sexual misconduct. In 2014, Taylor & Ring obtained a landmark jury verdict of $5.4 million – the largest awarded by a jury for sexual assault against a club or bar.
“This case will set an example for other public venues to ensure that their staff, security and premises are properly secured so that their patrons are safe,” said lead attorney John C. Taylor. “Owners are responsible for using reasonable judgement when operating a facility. This is a prime example of the management’s negligence, sadly resulting in a heinous act against the plaintiff.”
In March 2009, Janice H. was drinking with a friend in West Hollywood. She and her friend were separated, and Janice visited Here Lounge, a popular dance club and bar. Here Lounge was known for being well-attended and fostered a sexually charged atmosphere by permitting bartenders to wear nothing but underwear.
Here Lounge was also designed to have a common restroom area accessible to both men and women. On busy nights, there was often a long line of patrons waiting to use the restroom area, which included four adjacent lockable unisex restroom stalls, an open area with a urinal, and two larger American with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliant stalls to one side.
Although the ADA stalls were gender specified, patrons treated them as unisex and used them interchangeably. On Sunday nights, Here Lounge posted eight to 10 guards throughout the club, including one or two stationed on either side of the unisex stalls in the restroom area. The restroom guards were instructed to prevent more than one patron from entering a single bathroom stall at the same time.
When Janice arrived to Here Lounge, she was feeling intoxicated, drank water and sat on the patio. Later, she went to the restroom area where no guards were present. She entered into an ADA restroom stall and shut the door, without locking it. Victor Cruz, a busboy at Here Lounge, entered the stall where he sexually assaulted and raped her.