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Justin Westlake v. C. House Corporation D/B/A Coach House

June 15, 2011

JUSTIN WESTLAKE, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
C. HOUSE CORPORATION D/B/A COACH HOUSE,
EDWARD WILLIAMS AND COREY KELLEY, DEFENDANTS-APPELLEES.



Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County. Honorable Thomas David Roti, Judge Presiding.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Presiding Justice Quinn

No. 1-10-0653

PRESIDING JUSTICE QUINN delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Justices Neville and Murphy concurred in the judgment and opinion.

OPINION

Plaintiff, Justin Westlake, appeals from an order of the circuit court entering judgment for defendants, C House Corporation (d/b/a Coach House), Edward Williams and Corey Kelley, on three counts of plaintiff's third amended complaint alleging battery, willful and wanton conduct, and negligence against defendants. For the reasons set forth below, we affirm the circuit court.

Plaintiff's complaint arose out of an altercation that occurred in the early morning hours of April 25, 2007, outside of the Coach House, a restaurant and bar in Roselle, Illinois. On that date, plaintiff was at the Coach House with some friends and became involved in a verbal and physical altercation with other bar patrons and then punched defendant Edward Williams, a Coach House employee. According to plaintiff, after he hit Williams, another Coach House employee, defendant Corey Kelley, followed him to a parking lot across the street from the bar and beat him up. As a result of the altercation, plaintiff suffered several injuries to his face and his abdomen and was taken to the hospital, where he received stitches to his lip and above his eye. Plaintiff's third amended complaint, filed on January 5, 2010, alleged civil battery, two counts of negligence and two counts of willful and wanton conduct against the Coach House (counts I, VI, and VII, VIII, IX), civil battery and willful and wanton conduct against Edward Williams (counts II and III), and civil battery and willful and wanton conduct against Corey Kelley (count IV and V). Plaintiff sought money damages in the amount of $21,146, for the medical bills he incurred, as well as punitive damages.

Defendants filed an answer denying plaintiff's allegations and asserting the affirmative defenses of provocation, self-defense, and reasonable force. In addition, defendant Williams filed a counterclaim, alleging that plaintiff attacked him and seeking damages for the injuries he suffered and the medical bills he incurred. Prior to trial, plaintiff filed a motion to strike defendants' affirmative defense of provocation, which the trial court granted, and a motion to exclude evidence of plaintiff's intoxication, which the trial court denied.

On June 1, 2010, the parties filed an agreed statement of facts pursuant to Supreme Court Rule 323(d) (Ill. S. Ct. R. 323 eff. Sept. 23, 1996)) in lieu of the record of proceedings. The parties stipulated that a three-day bench trial was held from January 5, 2010 through January 7, 2010. At trial, plaintiff testified that he went to the Coach House on the evening of April 25, 2007 with several friends, including Kari Pace. Plaintiff drank between 5 and 10 beers and some time in the early morning hours just before the bar closed, he got into a verbal dispute with other bar patrons outside the Coach House. During this altercation, a female patron attempted to hit plaintiff and plaintiff, in turn, hit a male patron who was with her. Following this exchange, plaintiff hit defendant Edward Williams. Plaintiff and his friends then left the property and headed across the street to an empty parking lot where plaintiff's car was parked. Plaintiff testified that he was in the parking lot, being chased by several people, when he was attacked by someone he could not identify and was punched, thrown to the ground, and kicked in the head and body.

Kari Pace testified that she was at the Coach House with plaintiff on the evening of April 25, 2007, and was outside the bar during the altercation between plaintiff, the other bar patrons, and defendant Williams. She testified that after plaintiff hit Williams, she, plaintiff and another friend left and walked across the street to where plaintiff's car was parked. As they crossed the street, Pace said she heard footsteps and people running behind her. When she turned around, she saw Corey Kelley and a couple of other men wearing black clothes with a "Coach House" logo running toward them. She then saw Kelley hitting, kicking, and punching plaintiff, who was lying facedown on the ground trying to cover himself, and saw the other men in Coach House clothing fighting with other people in the parking lot.

Jason Jones testified that he was at the Coach House on May 29, 2005, when he became engaged in a verbal dispute with Michael Fritkin, a Coach House bouncer. Jones testified that Fritkin put him in a headlock and took him to the ground, breaking his nose. Jones also stated that after this altercation with Fritkin, he left the property and was standing on the sidewalk near Roselle Road when he was approached by Corey Kelley and another bouncer from the Coach House and was punched, knocked to the ground, punched again, and kicked.

Defendant Edward Williams was called as an adverse witness and testified that on April 25, 2007, he was working as a bouncer at the Coach House and that in the early morning hours, he saw plaintiff with his hands around a woman's throat. Williams broke up the altercation, and shortly thereafter, plaintiff hit him in the face with what Williams believed to be a glass bottle. Williams said that defendant then left the property and headed toward Roselle Road. Corey Kelley then approached Williams, who motioned toward Roselle Road. Williams then saw Kelley running in that direction until he lost sight of him. Williams testified that he did not tell Kelley that defendant hit him, did not cross Roselle Road, did not hit defendant, and was not involved in the incident in the parking lot. He also testified that he and Kelley were the only security personnel on duty that evening wearing black shirts with a "Coach House" logo.

Corey Kelley was also called as an adverse witness and testified that he was employed as a bouncer at the Coach House on the evening of the alleged incident and that around closing time, he was involved in a verbal altercation with plaintiff, his friends, and other Coach House patrons. Kelley said that during or after that verbal altercation, he encountered Edward Williams and saw that Williams had an injury to his face. He testified that he asked Williams what happened and Williams motioned toward Roselle Road, but did not tell him that plaintiff had hit him. Kelley stated that he ran toward Roselle Road and that when he arrived in the parking lot across the street, he saw seven or eight people running around and fighting. He testified that he never hit plaintiff, that when he ran across Roselle Road he did not know that plaintiff had hit Williams, and that Williams never went across Roselle Road to the location of the altercation. Kelley testified that he saw plaintiff in the back of a police car and said that plaintiff was agitated and shouting. He also stated that he and Williams were the only security personnel on duty that evening wearing black "Coach House" security shirts.

Demetrios Mastos testified as an adverse witness that he owns the Coach House, that Williams and Kelley were employed as bouncers on the evening of the alleged incident and that they were wearing black "Coach House" security shirts. Mastos said he did not see the verbal or physical exchange between plaintiff, his friends, other patrons, and Williams. After the alleged incident, he spoke with the police and viewed security videos taken during the alleged incident.

Dr. Subhashish Agarwal testified by deposition that he was the emergency room doctor at Alexian Brothers Medical Center, where plaintiff was brought by ambulance following the altercation at the Coach House. Dr. Agarwal stated that he examined and treated plaintiff's wounds and lacerations by placing stitches above his left eye and his lip. He also ordered X-rays and CAT scans of plaintiff's head, C-spine, abdomen, pelvis, and chest and gave plaintiff several medications, including antibiotics and painkillers. Later, plaintiff was released from the emergency room. Dr. Agarwal testified that ...


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