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Rude Rudy’s settled 2010 injury lawsuit

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Posted: September 3, 2014 9:46 p.m.
Updated: September 3, 2014 9:42 p.m.
Rude Rudy’s settled 2010 injury lawsuit


A Statesboro bar where a man recently was beaten, and who later died, settled a lawsuit regarding a 2010 incident in which a victim suffered a brain injury when he slipped and fell on a wet floor, according to a Savannah lawyer.

According to court documents filed in Bulloch County State Court, Kenneth Mikael Rineer sued Rude Rudy's LLC; its owner, Jonathan Starkey; and a bouncer, David Randall Maxwell, after a Feb. 14, 2010, incident Rineer blamed on negligence.

Howard Spiva, a Savannah attorney who represented Rineer, said Wednesday that the suit was settled out of court.

Rude Rudy's is the site where Michael Gatto, 18, Elkhorn Way, Cumming, reportedly was beaten by bouncer Grant James Spencer, 20, of Olympic Boulevard, on Aug. 28. A statement that appeared on Rude Rudy's Facebook page later that day claimed Spencer was off duty at the time of the incident. The Facebook statement no longer appears on the page.

Gatto, who died later that day, suffered extensive head injuries after the incident, police said. Spencer initially was arrested on aggravated battery charges; investigators added the murder charge Tuesday.

On Feb. 14, 2010, Rineer, now 23, of Rahn Station Road, Rincon, was at Rude Rudy's around 1:10 a.m., according to documents in the civil suit filed in Bulloch County State Court.

Rineer's statements during deposition claimed he fell on the floor of the bar, and when bouncer Maxwell came to escort him out, they both fell again.

Maxwell stated in his deposition that he saw Rineer after he got up from the initial fall and thought he was trying to fight because his arms were raised. Maxwell, too, stated that he stumbled and fell when trying to escort Rineer out of the bar, claiming Rineer "went limp," which he said contributed to them both falling.

The suit states Maxwell then picked up Rineer and took him outside, where Maxwell left him. Maxwell stated in his deposition that he thought Rineer was inebriated and was unaware he was unconscious because of an injury sustained in the fall.

The suit also alleged that Maxwell dropped Rineer as he took him outside, injuring him further. According to hospital records cited in the suit, Rineer suffered an epidural hematoma and skull fracture.

The civil action filed Sept. 27, 2010, held Rude Rudy's LLC, owner Starkey and bouncer Maxwell responsible, citing negligence. Starkey, who did not return phone calls seeking comment last week nor Wednesday, was negligent in training and supervising the bar's floor staff, according to the suit. The suit also alleged that Maxwell was negligent in handling his duties as a bouncer and that the bar, with drinks and other liquids spilled on the floor, was an unsafe environment.

In his deposition, Starkey described proper procedure for bouncers evicting patrons included three requests for them to leave, followed by force (a "bear hug" or "full Nelson" hold) if they did not comply.

Floor manager Trevor Castaneda stated he was trained to give a verbal warning before asking patrons to leave. He said he would attempt to "guide" them out with a hand to the shoulder before resorting to force.

Rineer's suit alleged the discrepancies in the way bouncers handled problem customers was proof they were not uniformly and properly trained. Starkey stated in his deposition that he trained his staff in the manner in which they should evict problem clients.

Rineer testified that he was going to go outside when asked because he didn't like confrontation and that he fell after Maxwell put his arms around his shoulders. In his deposition, Rineer described Maxwell as "a big guy" and himself as "little."

The suit outlines the night's events, stating that Rineer and his girlfriend went to the bar, and before entering, Rineer "took a swig" of Mogen David (MD) 20/20, a fortified wine product. During the time the two were inside, Rineer's girlfriend reportedly struck up a conversation with a former boyfriend, which made Rineer angry.

He went outside, then returned to join his girlfriend "dancing in a circle" with friends when he fell, according to the suit. When Rineer got up, Maxwell, standing on a table and overlooking the crowd, saw Rineer with arms raised. Maxwell went to defuse the situation, and when he placed his hands on Rineer to guide him outside, Rineer "went limp" and fell again, causing Maxwell to fall with him, according to the suit.

Rineer stated that he didn't know why he fell but that there was liquid on the floor and that his clothes were "soaked through" after the initial fall.

Castaneda's deposition stated that liquid from drinks spilled on the floor was a common occurrence and that people also often vomited on the floor. He stated that during busy times, a spill sometimes would be ignored until the bar closed.

After Rineer was taken out of the bar, Castaneda asked someone to call 911, as Rineer was not "oriented" and was calling for his girlfriend, the suit states.

At East Georgia Regional Medical Center, doctors found that Rineer suffered an anterior lobe epidural hematoma and sent him to Medical College of Georgia Hospital in Augusta, where he underwent a craniotomy to evacuate the epidural hematoma.

Rineer was treated and released, then returned on Feb. 28, 2010, for treatment caused by leg weakness, according to the suit. On Nov. 10, 2010, he fell at work after being struck by a go-kart, hitting his head again, the suit stated. Witnesses stated in depositions that Rineer showed impairment, personality changes and other problems after the Feb. 14, 2010, incident.

Spiva did not disclose details of the settlement between Rude Rudy's and Rineer. He said, however, that Starkey never admitted responsibility for Rineer's injuries.

Criminal charges against Maxwell were not filed, Spiva said. In Statesboro police incident reports, Maxwell was listed as a complainant regarding the incident. Reports did not give details regarding the events except that Maxwell and Rineer's girlfriend said they saw Rineer fall and that Bulloch County EMS responded to reports of "unknown injuries."

Spiva said Starkey laid blame on Rineer for the incident.

"A responsible bar owner does not put profits over safety," Spiva said Wednesday.

Holli Deal Saxon may be reached at (912) 489-9414.

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