An Illinois family was decimated by the wrongful death of a 27 year old woman, April Simmons, who was eight months pregnant when the vehicle driven by John Homatas ran head-on into her SUV near South Elgin, Illinois. The Illinois wrongful death lawsuit claimed that the West Chicago strip club, Diamonds Gentlemen’s Club, owned and operated by On Stage Productions, Inc., was negligent when its employees assisted an apparently drunk patron, John Homatas, and his friend into Homatas’s car, Simmons v. Homatas, 236 Ill.2d 459, 925 N.E.2d 1089 (Ill. 2010), and thus was liable for the Illinois car and SUV accident.
The Illinois wrongful death case revolved around the fact that the drunk driver and another man had gotten drunk at the club and were ejected by bouncers. Homatas was seen in the club’s men’s room vomiting. The employees then escorted Homatas and John Chiarello out of the club. The Illinois car crash with woman’s vehicle occurred only fifteen minutes after Homatas left Diamonds. Chiarello was also killed.
The strip club does not serve liquor, but patrons were allowed to bring their own. Because of that fact, Diamonds argued it was not responsible for Homatas’ bad acts. In fact the Illinois wrongful death case had been argued in the circuit court on Diamonds’ motion to dismiss. The motion was denied and an appeal was taken. The review went all the way to the Illinois Supreme Court, which ruled that the club did make itself accountable for Homatas. The facts were that the bouncers had instructed the valet service to bring around Homatas’ car to the front and left it running for him.
The lawsuit that was filed was a six count complaint. It alleged among other things that Diamonds was responsible under the Illinois Dram Shop Act, for common negligence and for the wrongful deaths of April Simmons and her unborn child. The Supreme Court ruled that the Illinois Dram Shop Act did not apply because Diamonds did not sell alcohol. But the Illinois Supreme Court did hold that Diamonds (On Stage Productions, Inc.) owed a duty to decedents to not encourage and assist a patron (Homatas) in the tortious conduct of driving while intoxicated. Therefore, the court held that a cause of action for common law negligence could be sustained. The case was remanded back to the trial court, but was then settled.
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