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Osborne v. Stages Music Hall

March 15, 2000


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Wolfson

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County. Honorable Sharon Johnson-Coleman, Judge Presiding.

The question in this case is whether Stages Music Hall, Inc. (Stages), the owner of a nightclub on Clark Street in Chicago, owed a duty to protect its customer from a third-party criminal attack that took place just outside its entrance doors.

After hearing the plaintiff Lindie Osborne's (Osborne) evidence, the trial court directed a verdict in favor of Stages. We reverse the trial court and remand for a new trial.


At about 10:45 p.m. on October 19, 1993, Osborne and her friend, Michelle Becht, accompanied by Becht's boyfriend, Paul, and Paul's friend, Mike, arrived at a nightclub/bar on Clark Street in Chicago known as the Cabaret Metro (Metro). They went to the Metro to see a band called "The Orb," which was scheduled to play at 11:00 p.m. that night.

When Osborne got to the club, there was a short line of people waiting to get in, standing behind barricades or "horses," which had been set up on the sidewalk leading to the front doors of the Metro. After standing in line briefly, Osborne and her friends entered the building, passing through two sets of glass double doors, and into a hallway where a ticket booth was located. After purchasing a ticket at the ticket booth, Osborne continued down the hallway to a place where a podium was set up and male bouncers were taking tickets and checking identification. Osborne surrendered her ticket, showed her ID, and then turned left to go up the stairway to the second floor, where the Metro club was located.

Karl Trujillo testified he and his friends, Daniel Hosneola (Danny) (also known as Dusany Dollah or Dusany Dolan) and Colleen Smith, went to the Smart Bar at about 10:30 p.m. on October 19, 1993. The entrance to the Smart Bar is located next door to the Metro. Both bars are owned and operated by Stages. Though both bars have separate entrances, they share an interior hallway. Off this interior hallway, the Metro is accessed by climbing the north stairway; the Smart Bar is accessed by descending the south stairway.

Though Karl and Danny entered through the Smart Bar entrance, once inside Danny went to the Metro, while Karl went to the Smart Bar with Colleen.

Both Karl and Danny were under age (Karl was 19, Danny was 17), but they had identification stating otherwise. Karl testified he drank six mixed drinks while he was at the Smart Bar and he became rather intoxicated. He could not say how much Danny had to drink, but testified Danny also had been drinking alcoholic beverages that night.

At some point in time (the exact time was not established), Karl noticed Danny racing down the stairs to the Smart Bar, chased by eight or nine bouncers. At the foot of the stairs, Karl said, the bouncers captured Danny and began hitting and kicking him. Karl didn't know why the bouncers were scuffling with Danny, but he decided to help out his friend.

Karl said he tried to pull the bouncers off Danny, telling them to leave Danny alone. The bouncers told Karl to mind his own business. Karl, trained in martial arts, then began to fight with the bouncers, knocking two of them down. Soon the bouncers were able to gain control over both Karl and Danny. Karl and Danny were forcefully directed up the stairs and ejected from the Smart Bar. The door to the bar was then locked.

Karl testified he and Danny first began banging on the doors to the Smart Bar. Getting no response, they moved over to the doors of the Metro to try to get back inside. Karl said they didn't get back inside through the Metro "because after this girl got in the way, they took her in and locked the door."*fn1

Later at trial, Karl said he went to the door of the Metro after being ejected from the Smart Bar, tried the handle, and found that door was locked, too. He pulled at the door handle, yelled at the bouncers, and gestured to the bouncers to let him inside. Then, Karl said, he saw "someone come past me and I looked at them to like make the bouncers think that we were going to get into an altercation out there to make them come out, lure them out." Karl said he gestured toward this female passerby and then "felt a push from behind my back." He said he thought it was a bouncer, so he "did a spinning heel kick" and ended up striking a female individual "who got between me and the bouncer." On cross-examination, Karl admitted he never saw the woman he kicked before he struck her.

Osborne and Becht testified they left the Metro at about 12:40 a.m., leaving behind Paul and Mike. At the foot of the stairway there were two male bouncers -- one sitting on a stool and the other one standing. These bouncers asked if Osborne and Becht wanted their hands stamped so they could return to the club. Osborne and Becht declined.

Osborne and Becht then turned right and entered the main hallway leading to the front doors. A third bouncer was standing in this hallway, leaning on the wall. He bid Osborne and Becht a "Good Night" as they passed by.

As they continued toward the front door, Osborne and Becht testified, they saw two males standing outside the building, pounding on the outside doors. These men were yelling profanities at the bouncers, though ...

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