On May 21, 2011, seventeen year old Martin Blea, Jr. entered the business premises of The Pussycat Lounge, an after-hours BYOB establishment located in Odessa, Texas. The Pussycat Lounge was located less than a half mile from an adult cabaret known as Jaguars Gold Club. The Pussycat Lounge and Jaguars Gold Club essentially had the same owners and operators on May 21, 2011 and in the years leading up to May 21, 2011, such that the owners and operators of The Pussycat Lounge knew that dangerous and violent people were in the area and frequently visited The Pussycat Lounge
Martin Blea, Jr. went to The Pussycat Lounge with his older sister, among other individuals. At some point, his sister went to the restroom. As she was returning from the ladies’ room, a man, who was unknown to the sister (and has never been fully identified) but who had previously been seen conversing with a man named Steve Uresti and other patrons of the Pussycat Lounge, approached the sister and grabbed her in a sexually provocative manner. When the sister rejected these advances, the unidentified man punched the sister in the face and knocked her to the ground. The man then jumped on top of her. Martin Blea, Jr. was dancing on the dance floor at this time and saw his sister in distress. He went to pull the unidentified man off of his sister and a fight broke out. While Martin Blea, Jr. was attempting to aid his sister, Steve Uresti pulled out a 9 millimeter handgun and fired several shots into the air. Mr. Uresti then fired several more shots, one of which hit Martin Blea, Jr. in the face and killed him. Mr. Uresti’s gun had made its way into The Pussycat Lounge despite the fact that a policy was in place where patrons entering the premises were required to be screened with a hand held metal detector wand and patted down as part of an effort to keep dangerous weapons out of the club..
After being shot, Martin Blea, Jr. fell to the floor of The Pussycat Lounge where he struggled to breathe until the paramedics arrived. An ambulance transported Martin Blea, Jr. to a hospital in Odessa, Texas, where he was pronounced dead from his gunshot wound. On November 29, 2012, a jury in Ector County, Texas, convicted Steve Uresti of manslaughter in connection with the death of Martin Blea, Jr. and sentenced him to 20 years of confinement in the Texas Department of Corrections.
The parents of Martin Blea, Jr. retained DZWL to investigate the viability of, and potentially prosecute a wrongful death and survival action against persons determined to be potentially civilly liable for the death of Martin Blea, Jr. Our clients asserted that the owners/operators of The Pussycat Lounge controlled the security and safety of The Pussycat Lounge on May 21, 2011, and owed a duty to protect people visiting the club, such as Martin Blea, Jr., from the criminal acts of third parties if they knew or had reason to know of an unreasonable and foreseeable risk of harm to people visiting the club.. In that regard, the evidence revealed that the owners/operators knew or should have known that in the approximately three-year period immediately prior to May 21, 2011: a) the Odessa Police Department had been repeatedly called to the Jaguars Gold Club, a stone’s throw from The Pussycat Lounge, for numerous and repetitive instances of violent criminal conduct at Jaguars Gold Club involving, among other things, armed robbery, assault, gunshot victims and shots fired; b) the Ector County Sheriff’s Office had been repeatedly called to the premises of The Pussycat Lounge (as well as the business previously operated at those premises which was also owned and/or operated by the same persons) for numerous and repetitive instances of violent criminal conduct at those premises, involving, among other things, assault, aggravated assault, assault with bodily injury, aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, deadly conduct, robbery and a subject with a gun; and, c) the Ector County Sheriff’s Office had been repeatedly called to the Jaguar’s Gold Club for numerous and repetitive instances of violent criminal conduct at Jaguar’s Gold Club involving, among other things, assault, aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, aggravated assault, sexual assault, robbery, aggravated robbery, shots fired, deadly conduct, stab victim, man with a gun and prohibited weapon. Therefore, our clients asserted that the owners/operators of The Pussycat Lounge knew or should have known of the risk that persons in the immediate vicinity of The Pussycat Lounge who visited the Defendants’ two business establishments in that locale might foreseeably injure other people visiting the The Pussycat Lounge, such as Martin Blea, Jr., and Defendants had a duty to protect persons, such as Martin Blea, Jr., from the imminent, probable and foreseeable harm posed by other patrons of Defendants’ establishments. Our clients asserted that their son died as a result of Steve Uresti’s foreseeable act of firing a gun that had been brought into the Pussycat Lounge as a result of the inadequate security measures employed by Defendants at The Pussycat Lounge on May 21, 2011.
The Estate of the deceased, Martin Blea, Jr., incurred funeral and burial expenses of $11,423.06 and medical expenses of $1,193.50. The parents sought to recover damages under the Survival Statute for the alleged conscious pain and suffering endured by Martin Blea, Jr. between the time he was shot and the time he was pronounced dead. The parents also sought to recover for damages to the parent-child relationship, including loss of affection, solace, comfort, companionship, society, assistance, emotional support and love, loss of pecuniary value of the services of Martin Blea, Jr. and past and future mental anguish, grief and sorrow.
Despite the various contentions of the owners/operators, their insurance company paid our clients the insurance policy limits of $1,000,000 to settle their claims. The net recovery for our clients, after payment of attorneys’ fees and case expenses, was $555,494.39.
Top 10 things to do if you are injured by a product:
by Daryl L. Derryberry, Member of Derryberry Zips Wade Lawhorn, PLLC
- Contact a lawyer immediately to prevent the product from being destroyed or disposed of. An attorney can send a spoliation letter to preserve the product for inspection which is crucial to your case. Do not sign any documents prior to consulting with an attorney.
- Obtain the name of the product manufacturer and the make and model number of the product.
- Send all worker’s compensation forms, if any, to your lawyer before signing.
- Take photographs of your injuries if possible.
- Take photographs of the scene of the incident if possible.
- Do not give any written or recorded statements to any insurance company or company representative without consulting with an attorney.
- Immediately seek medical attention at a hospital or from a doctor if you are injured. If you do not seek medical attention, then the insurance company and/or product manufacturer will contend that you delayed in treatment and are not injured.
- If you do not have health insurance, contact an attorney. We may be able to assist you in obtaining medical care.
- Prepare a brief summary of the incident. Our memories fade about the details of an accident as time passes. This is helpful later in jogging your memory of the details of the incident.
- Obtain a police report if one is available.
Daryl L. Derryberry is one of the two founding partners of the firm now known as Derryberry Zips Wade Lawhorn, PLLC (the “Firm”). Daryl and Craig Zips started the Firm in May, 2002 and have enjoyed great success since the Firm’s inception. Daryl’s legal career spans two decades and includes successfully securing jury verdicts and settlements on behalf of his clients in oil rig accidents, 18 wheeler wrecks, medical negligence, products liability, broker malpractice, breach of fiduciary duty and other cases.
Top 10 things to do if you are injured in an accident, including a car accident or 18 wheeler accident.
By Craig Zips, Member of Derryberry Zips Wade Lawhorn, PLLC
- Immediately call the police or 911 to report the accident, do not leave the scene of the accident and attempt to ensure the other party also stays at the scene.
- Contact a lawyer immediately. The insurance company for the at fault driver and your insurance company will act only to protect their respective financial interests. The insurance companies only care about saving their money. Do not sign any documents prior to consulting with an attorney.
- Attempt to identify any witnesses to the accident and write down their names, addresses and telephone numbers. If possible, also write down their license plate numbers.
- Exchange the following information with the other driver; name, address and telephone number, make and model of the car or 18 wheeler, license plate number, the other driver’s employer, if applicable, if the driver does not own the car then obtain the name, address and telephone number of the owner of the car or 18 wheeler, obtain all insurance information, including the name of the insurance agent for the other driver. Also, if the accident involves and 18 wheeler then write down the Unites States Department of Transportation (“US DOT”) number that is typically located somewhere on the tractor or trailer.
- Write down any statements that are made by the other driver that indicate the other driver is at fault. These statements may be used against the other driver and/or their employer in settlement negotiations or if a lawsuit is filed. Conversely, do not make any statements to the other driver or witnesses in connection with the accident. Please remember to make sure that any statements made to the police are truthful and accurate. Do not guess or speculate about any answer to any question asked by the investigating officer.
- Take photographs of the property damage to your car and the other car(s) or 18 wheeler while you are at the scene of the accident. Also take photos of the accident scene, including any visual obstructions, road signs, speed limits signs, and any skid marks made by any vehicle involved in the accident.
- Immediately seek medical treatment if you are even slightly injured. Sometimes accident victims can sustain internal injuries without realizing he/she is injured. Internal injuries can be fatal if not treated. Do not be embarrassed to ask for an ambulance if you have been injured in any manner. Please also make sure you attend all doctor and physical therapy appointments. If you miss these appointments, then the insurance company will argue these missed appointments mean you are not really hurt.
- Do not give any written or recorded statements to any insurance company or insurance company representative without consulting with an attorney.
- Prepare a brief summary of the accident. Our memories fade about the details of an accident as time passes. These notes about the accident will be helpful later in jogging your memory of the details of the accident. Also, keep a daily diary of your medical visits, as well as a daily diary of the pain you are experiencing after the accident.
- Obtain a police report if one is available.
Craig Zips is one of the two founding members of the firm now known as Derryberry Zips Wade Lawhorn, PLLC. He is board certified in personal injury trial law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization, and has been given the premier AV rating by Martindale Hubbell. Craig has represented numerous clients for over 15 years in a variety of litigation matters, from complex commercial matters, including business disputes and securities fraud, as well as the representation of plaintiffs in serious injury cases.