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Settlement Reached in Harrah’s Biker Brawl Lawsuit

Is a business responsible for how customers behave toward each other? Maybe. But in at least one case, a business is being held liable for the injuries that resulted from a brawl between customers.

The Las Vegas Sun reports that a Clark County jury found Harrah’s Laughlin liable for injuries sustained by onlookers when a deadly clash broke out between rival biker gangs at a 2002 motorcycle rally at the casino.

The Sun states that two members of Hell’s Angels and a member of the Mongols died in the brawl. After the jury’s decision finding Harrah’s liable, the five bystander plaintiffs in the civil suit reached an undisclosed settlement with the casino and hotel.

At trial, Harrah’s Laughlin argued that it wasn’t responsible for the criminal acts of the bikers, who went after each other with guns, knives, hammers and wrenches during the annual River Run.

At the conclusion of the three-week trial, the jury rejected Harrah’s argument, however, finding the company liable for the injuries and trauma suffered by the victims.

The lawsuit had been in the courts for years; at one point, the casino obtained a summary judgment. A District judge even granted a $340,000 against the plaintiffs for filing frivolous litigation.

In an appeal, the Nevada Supreme Court overturned that ruling and sent the case back to the District Court where the case was finally decided in the plaintiffs’ favor.

One of the plaintiffs has been diagnosed with permanent post-traumatic stress disorder since the incident.

The plaintiffs argued that the hotel knew trouble was brewing between the hostile gangs and didn’t provide enough security to its customers who wound up caught in the crossfire.

The fatal fray has been at the center of five federal lawsuits and another in California. All were decided in favor of Harrah’s Entertainment Inc. of Las Vegas, owner of Harrah’s Laughlin.

Source: Las Vegas Sun: “Plaintiffs discuss settlement with Harrah’s in 2002 Laughlin brawl”: November 8, 2010

John P. Aldrich
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