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Jury: Seacrets not liable for rape

An Ocean City bar is not liable for a rape that occurred in its parking lot, a jury decided Monday.

SeacretsThe case had been brought by a woman who was attacked in the parking lot of Seacrets, a resort hotspot, after bar employees noticed she was drunk, escorted her outside and left her there.

The jury, made up of five women and five men, deliberated for about two days after a trial that began Jan. 14 in U.S. District Court in Baltimore.

Joseph S. Mack of Mack & Mack LLP in Baltimore said he and his client, identified in court papers only as Jane Doe, are considering their options for an appeal.

“We are grateful that the jury took its time to consider the evidence in the case,” Mack said. “We are disappointed with the result.”

During closing arguments Wednesday, Mack told the jury that the bar’s owner, O.C. Seacrets Inc., failed to take reasonable precautions when its staff left her outside the bar alone. The defense, however, said the bar should not be held liable for the criminal acts of another person.

Throughout the case, Seacrets maintained the assault was not the result of any negligence on the bar’s part. Seacrets’ attorney Laura C. Walters, of Drechsler, Larkin & Walters P.C. in Baltimore, argued that the bar is obligated under its written policy to eject intoxicated people and prevent them from returning.

“The management and staff of Seacrets would like to thank the judge and jury for their careful attention to this matter,” Walters said.

Walters declined to comment further on the outcome, saying it was her firm’s policy not to discuss verdicts.

Jane Doe, then 24, headed to Ocean City in 2008 to spend the Memorial Day weekend with friends.

At around 1 a.m., bar cameras show the woman swaying before falling sideways in the bar. A doorman at the time, William Arvin, escorted her outside and left her on a bench.

While there was evidence that Seacrets has a policy of trying to reunite people it ejects with other members of their party, Arvin testified that the policy does not apply during the peak summer season because the staff does not have enough time.

Around 2:22 a.m., parking lot security cameras show “a violent assault” against a woman, before the attacker moved the woman behind a building, according to court documents.

Jane Doe’s lawsuit sought $1 million in damages for negligent ejectment and premises liability.

She also said that Seacrets chose to place a security camera in the parking lot, but failed to use it to provide effective security.

Walters, however, argued during the case that the woman had ignored both taxi and bus rides and left the bench where staff left her.

The woman’s assailant, Lorenzo Ivan Garcia-Moreno, pleaded guilty to first-degree rape, kidnapping and other crimes in March 2012 and was sentenced to 30 years in prison.

Judge William M. Nickerson presided over the trial. Last year, Nickerson denied a motion for dismissal or summary judgment in which Seacrets argued that the lawsuit was a dram shop liability action. Under dram shop actions, which Maryland does not recognize, bars are liable for over-serving alcohol.

Nickerson denied the motion in August, saying Seacrets had policies in place to deal with drunk patrons since staff members are told to search for their friends and even alert other staff when they can’t find the friends.

Daily Record Legal Affairs Writer Kristi Tousignant contributed to this report.

JANE DOE VS. O.C. SEACRETS INC. ET AL.

Court:

U.S. District Court, Maryland, Baltimore

Case No.:

1:11-cv-01399-WMN

Judge:

William M. Nickerson

Outcome:

A jury found that O.C. Seacrets Inc. is not liable for the rape of a woman in its parking lot.

Dates:

Suit filed: May 23, 2011

Verdict: Jan. 28, 2013

Plaintiffs’ Attorney:

Joseph S. Mack of Mack & Mack LLP in Baltimore.

Defendant’s Attorney:

Laura C. Walters of Drechsler, Larkin & Walters P.C. in Baltimore.

Counts:

Negligent ejectment and premises liability.

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