Jury awards local bar customer $2 million

Local bar customer awarded $2 million Mai Tai Statement
Published: Sep. 7, 2012 at 10:19 PM HST|Updated: Sep. 8, 2012 at 12:06 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The Mai Tai Bar has lost a multimillion dollar civil suit.  It's a decision that the plaintiff's attorney thinks could change the way people party at bars.  However the bar owner says it will appeal.

Thousands of people walk through the Mai Tai Bar at Ala Moana Shopping Center a year.  It took one of them to slip and fall to start a civil lawsuit that lasted seven years.

Ernie Verdugo said his life changed when he was leaving the Mai Tai Bar.  He says the exit path was obstructed by a crowd of people and the tile floor was soaked with beer causing him to slip even though he claims he was the sober designated driver.

"I took a few steps and slipped. Just went down really fast and I'm not clumsy. I'm a pretty agile guy," said Ernie Verdugo, Plaintiff.

He said he had seven surgeries in seven years, four of which were related to a blood clot in his leg.  The swelling and pain still happen every day.

"By the end of the day (my left leg) gets very swollen, you can see it now when I press my finger in, it just stays like that," said Verdugo.

He was 37 years old at the time.  Now seven years later a jury awarded him $2 million in general damages and another $144,000 in special damages.

"I don't care if they gave me $10 million I would rather have my life back, to where I was the day before I had my accident. You could give me $10 million, you can give me $100 million, it's about getting my health back," said Verdugo.

His attorney says the frustrating part is that the conditions that hurt Verdugo are still at the bar even though the Mai Tai Bars manual spells out that "next to traffic accidents, falls injure and or kill more people than any other kind of accident."

"Anyone who goes into the Mai Tai Bar on a night when there is live music they are taking their lives into their hands literally," said Howard Glickstein, Verdugo's Attorney.

He says not only are they setting themselves up for another lawsuit but the multimillion dollar verdict should put all bar owners on notice.

"It's not okay to have wet floors and rely on four waitresses to make sure your customers don't slip and fall and die," said Glickstein.

"We believe the trial court erred by excluding crucial key evidence that would have changed the outcome of the case. Recent video evidence suggesting that the Plaintiff was no longer injured was excluded as was medical evidence showing that Plaintiff was predisposed to his ailment. We fully expect that an appeal of the case will result in a reversal of the jury verdict," said Steve Scheinthal, Landry's Executive Vice President and General Counsel, in a written statement.

"Moreover, and as incredible as this sounds, the plaintiff's lawyer threatened to generate negative publicity against us unless we agreed not to seek an appeal of this case within 24 hours of the jury verdict. We did not succumb to Plaintiff's threat and plan on appealing the wrongful jury verdict," said Scheinthal.  "The Mai Tai Bar continues to be a fun, exciting and entertaining venue and any suggestion to the contrary is just an absurdity."

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