Hooters Brawl Lands Guard $860,000

January 9, 2003 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - A security guard injured after being head-butted at a Hooters corporate Christmas party was awarded over $860,000 by a San Diego jury, according to a report in The National Law Journal.

Evan Johnson, claiming he suffered permanent physical and neurological injuries that have kept him from returning to work, was awarded the damages after the jury found the guest, Robert Womack, and the party-throwing Hooters franchisee negligent.   However, the jury found the restaurant’s negligence was not a contributing factor to Johnson’s injuries and deemed Womack solely liable for all damages.

Hooting It Up

The party was thrown by Hooters’ Mission Valley, California restaurant in December of 2000. Johnson was working there that night as a security guard, while a Hooters employee had invited Womack to the party. As the party progressed, Johnson noticed Womack’s behavior was getting out of hand and thus, asked him to leave.   The guard claimed that Womack, apparently not wanting to leave the party, head-butted him, prompting a fracas involving other partygoers to break out.

The injured Johnson then sued Womack, Hooters of America Inc and Hoot Winc LLC, the franchisee of the Mission Valley establishment. Prior to the trial, Hooters of America was dismissed from the case when it was established in the discovery phase they were not a proper party.

Johnson’s lawyers contended Hoot Winc knew or should have known about Womack’s dangerous propensities but failed to take preventative action. Additionally, they argued that the restaurant let the party get out of hand and that some of its employees may have contributed to Johnson’s injuries in the melee.

However, Hoot Winc’s defense team denied the allegation, saying Hoot Winc had no prior notice that Womack had any violent tendencies. Womack, representing himself, said that he did not go to the party with the intent to hurt anyone and that he was not prone to violence.