A case in which a woman is suing an Ocean City bar after she was raped in its parking lot is in the jury’s hands.
Attorneys for the plaintiff and the bar’s owner, O.C. Seacrets Inc., presented their closing arguments Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Baltimore. The woman’s attorney reiterated his argument that the bar failed to take reasonable precautions, while the bar’s lawyer said the assault was not the result of any negligence on the bar’s part.
“Businesses have an obligation to make sure they don’t put customers in harm’s way,” said the plaintiff’s attorney, Joseph S. Mack of Mack & Mack LLP in Baltimore. “And if a business provides security it has to make sure it pays attention. It’s very simple.”
Mack reminded the jury of five women and five men that Seacrets is bound by the actions of its agents and employees.
But Seacrets’ attorney, Laura C. Walters of Drechsler, Larkin & Walters P.C. in Baltimore, said the bar fulfilled its responsibilities. She said the bar has a written policy that it must eject intoxicated patrons and not let them back into the bar.
She also said that once these patrons have been ejected, the bar makes transportation options available to them.
“All of the duties were fulfilled,” Walters said.
Walters also said Jane Doe’s claim should be barred under Maryland’s laws on contributory negligence. She said that the plaintiff, identified only as Jane Doe in court documents, “ignored all of the options for safety” after she was kicked out of the bar.
“She ignored a bus ride, she ignored a cab ride and she didn’t stay on the bench” where bar staff left her, Walter said.
The trial, which could set new law on the duties of bar owners to guests, began last Monday.
The assailant, Lorenzo Ivan Garcia-Moreno, was charged with first-degree rape, kidnapping and other crimes. He pleaded guilty in March 2012 and was sentenced to 30 years in prison.
Jane Doe, who was 25 at the time, traveled to Ocean City from Pennsylvania in 2008 to celebrate the Memorial Day weekend with friends.
Her complaint sought $1 million in damages for negligent ejectment and premises liability.
Deliberations began Wednesday afternoon and continued until about 4:30, according to court personnel. The jury is expected to resume deliberations on Thursday morning.
According to court documents, a security camera at the bar showed Jane Doe swaying and staggering about 1 a.m.
She then fell sideways and landed at the feet of William Arvin, a doorman at the bar at the time. Arvin helped her up and escorted her out of the bar.
Arvin testified at the trial that he would not have tried to reunite an ejected patron with her friends because the woman was kicked out during the bar’s peak summer season.
He said the bar does make such attempts during the winter time when there is “less traffic.”
According to an earlier ruling in the case, security cameras show “a violent assault” against the woman in the parking lot at about 2:22 a.m., and a few minutes later, a camera showed the assailant and the woman moving behind a building.
In a motion for dismissal or summary judgment filed in March, Walters characterized the case as an action for dram shop liability, which Maryland does not recognize.
Under dram shop actions, bars can be held liable for over-serving alcohol.
However, the presiding judge in the case denied the motion in August and ruled that the case could go forward.
Senior Judge William M. Nickerson said the bar’s policies recognize the “potential harm to an intoxicated individual, particularly a young woman, left without any means by which to safely return to her hotel.”