Updated 9/23/13 at 9:17 a.m.
Following a confrontation that began inside a downtown McDonald's in 2011, Patrick Casey was knocked down and died of a head injury. Yesterday, Casey's family filed a civil wrongful death lawsuit against three men—as well as the McDonald's and several bars the family claims served alcohol to the alleged attackers.
Casey's family claimed that in the hours leading up to the altercation, bars and other establishments in downtown Washington served alcohol to three men who were visibly intoxicated, a violation of D.C. law. The family accused the McDonald's of failing to create a safe environment for patrons despite "specifically and intentionally" catering to intoxicated customers.
The lawsuit was filed yesterday in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. Casey's family is represented by Brendan Kaproth of Washington's Basyuk & Klaproth and Alexandria, Va., solo practitioner Stephen Pickard. Neither was reached for comment this morning.
Besides the McDonald's, the complaint named Ozio, Camelot, the Mighty Pint, Sign of the Whale and Rumors as defendants. A man who answered the phone at Camelot declined to comment (he did not provide his name or title), as did a woman at Ozio. No one could immediately be reached at any of the other bars and restaurants named in the complaint.
Casey's family argued that because the McDonald's stayed open late—presumably, according to the suit, to serve drunk customers—the restaurant should have had a security plan in place in the same vein as nightclubs.
"McDonald’s had notice that failure to provide security or properly train its employees in providing a safe environment for its patrons would foreseeably result in physical assaults at its Restaurants and injuries to its customers," the family said in the complaint.
In a statement, the McDonald's franchisee, Kyung Rhee, said that the "safety and well-being of my employees and customers is extremely important. After the incident we cooperated with local authorities. As this is a pending legal matter, it is inappropriate to further comment.”
The plaintiffs likely face an uphill battle with their claim against McDonald's, said Patrick Regan of Washington's Regan Zambri Long & Bertram, who handles wrongful death lawsuits and is not involved in the Casey's case.
Under D.C. law, Regan said, the plaintiffs would have to show that other incidents similar to the one in Casey's case had already taken place at the McDonald's in order to claim the restaurant should have been on notice about security risks.
"The law does not say that if you serve drunk customers, you have to have armed security guards patrolling every inch of the property," Regan said. "The burden is on the plaintiff to establish there were prior similar incidents. I underscore similar, because that’s set forth in the cases that have come down from the D.C. Court of Appeals involving premises liability and negligent security."
Prosecutors did not bring criminal charges against several men believed to be involved in the incident. According to media reports from the time, officials found "insufficient evidence" to pursue a criminal case. The family claimed Casey, a 33-year-old graduate student and U.S. Army veteran, was trying to prevent a fight when he was punched in the head and fell to the ground. Police officials were quoted as saying Casey may have been an instigator.
The case is before U.S. District Judge Richard Leon. No hearings were scheduled.