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(The Daily Record/Maximilian Franz)

Ottobar sued over broken neck caused by crowd surfer

An Owings Mills man has filed a $14 million lawsuit against the Ottobar after he suffered a broken neck during a concert three years ago.

Yuri Sanchez was watching the local hardcore band Stout perform when an unidentified man jumped off of the stage and struck his knee against Sanchez’s head, according to the lawsuit in Baltimore City Circuit Court.

Sanchez, a veteran hardcore musician, was taken to the R Adams Crowley Shock Trauma Center and underwent cervical spinal fusion surgery, according to the lawsuit. He now uses a walker to help with his mobility problems and has not been able to return to work as a physical laborer, according to his lawyer, Kenneth G. Macleay.

The lawsuit seeks damages from Camp Zama Inc., which holds the liquor license for the Ottobar, and Cold Alligator Inc., which owns the Howard Street building where the Ottobar is located. The lawsuit also names as defendants Ottobar owners Craig B. Boarman, George M. Bowen and Brian DeRan.

Calls to the Ottobar were not answered. Messages left with Craig H. DeRan, the resident agent for Cold Alligator, also were not returned. DeRan is with Stark & Keenan P.A. in Bel Air.

The complaint alleges the Ottobar had no signs or warning notices that “stage diving” or “crowd surfing” could be dangerous and that there was no buffer between the crowd and the stage where stage diving and crowd surfing were taking place.

The lawsuit also alleges the owners “encouraged and advertised such behavior… in an effort to attract young irresponsible adults to come pay a cover charge to engage in such behavior.”

“The Defendants encouraged, were aware of, and supported the acts of ‘stage diving’ and ‘crowd surfing,’ which is an inherently ultrahazardous and dangerous activity that the Defendants knew, or should have known, was likely to result in serious injury or death to their business invitees in attendance,” the lawsuit states.

The Ottobar held a benefit concert for Sanchez in January 2012, which included a performance by Stout.

The Ottobar has been sued at least one other time by a patron injured by a stage diver, in September 2010. That case was settled and dismissed in January 2011, according to online court records.

The Ottobar also held a benefit concert in the wake of that lawsuit, but for a different reason: the August 2010 show was to help the club defend against the lawsuit, according to The Baltimore Sun. Bowen told The Sun that the club’s insurance company called the incident “assault and battery” and refused to pay fees or settle.

Macleay said the Ottobar changed its ownership to a limited liability company following the litigation.

“They didn’t change their behavior or security measures, they just changed the legal protections afforded under the corporate veil,” said Macleay, of The Law Offices of Hall, Butler, Macleay & Barnes LLC in Millersville.

The case is Yuri Sanchez v. Camp Zama Inc., et al., 24C140026756.

Sanchez’s suit is the latest in a string of similar actions filed throughout the country, including here in Maryland.

In February, a federal judge in Pennsylvania ordered Los Angeles-based band Fishbone and lead singer Angelo Moore to pay nearly $1.4 million to a woman who claimed her skull was fractured by Moore when he dove into the crowd during a 2010 show in Philadelphia.

Also in February, DJ Skrillex was sued in California state court by a woman who claimed he caused her to have a stroke when he dived onto her during a 2012 concert in Los Angeles.

A former Lutherville resident also filed a federal lawsuit against Live Nation Worldwide Inc. in August alleging he suffered a broken back after a crowd surfer fell on him at The Fillmore in Silver Spring during a Korn concert in May 2012.

Kenneth K. Miller, who is seeking $1 million in damages, claims that even though The Fillmore had signs prohibiting crowd surfing, security guards assisted crowd surfers when they reached the barrier between the crowd and the stage and “permitted them to return to the audience without so much as a warning,” according to the complaint.

About Danny Jacobs

Danny Jacobs is the legal editor at The Daily Record. He previously covered trial courts at the state and local levels and served as web editor.