Jeff Smith noon, March 8
Judge Judy Takes On the Belly Up Tavern
JUDGE JUDY VS THE BELLY UP TAVERN
So I was watching an afternoon repeat of Judge Judy (I like it when she yells at dumbasses), and lo and behold the episode involved the Belly Up Tavern in Solana Beach. It was the case of “Beauty and the Bouncers” ----
“Erin Ackerman says nightclub owner David Hodges owes for an assault committed by bouncers at his club,” said the narrator. “David says Erin was drunk and belligerent.” (Ever notice how the case intros use first names? I suspect that’s because so many family members with the same last name sue each other….)
The Belly Up’s owner at the time, David Hodges, was defending himself against a suit brought by a female patron who claimed bouncers forcibly removed her from the bar with no cause, pulling down her halter top and exposing her breasts in the process.
Ackerman, a 30-ish blonde wearing a woman’s business suit with her hair pulled into a tight ponytail, admitted sharing a bottle of wine over dinner with friends before going to the club, but denied being intoxicated or drinking at the Belly Up.
“It was actually so crowded, I couldn’t find my way to the bar, let alone order a drink.” She said she decided the bar was “way too overwhelmingly crowded for me…I was headed toward the exit when two to three men approached me from behind…they wrestled me to the ground, and picked me up by my ankles and my wrists and carried me out the front door. During the struggle, unfortunately my tube top had slid down around my waist…my whole upper body was exposed.”
Ackerman claimed to have “minor scrapes and bruises all over my body,” but could produce no photos of her injuries. She filed a report with the San Diego Sheriff’s Department “not even two days later.”
“Was it at the suggestion of your lawyer that you called and made this sheriff’s report?” asked the adjudicating Judy.
“I do not recall…”
“Sure you do,” interrupted Judge Judy. Ackerman admitted that she later saw a chiropractor about possible injury to her back. “The chiropractor you went to…was recommended by your attorney,” the judge stated rather than asked.
When the woman acknowledged this, Judge Judy turned to her bailiff and commented “It’s almost like I have a crystal ball.”
Tavern owner Hodges was accompanied by a club employee and an “independent witness” named Joe Taylor, a patron on the night in question who claimed no personal acquaintance with Hodges. Taylor said he heard “a ruckus,” saw a bouncer telling the plaintiff “You can’t go around shoving people” and the plaintiff “basically turned to him and told him to go [expletive deleted] himself…he put his hand on her arm and said ‘you have to leave the premises’…and she started to swing.”
Taylor testified that two more bouncers intervened and “she was fighting so hard she slipped and she went down onto the ground on her back. She was kicking and trying to punch, scratching, and that’s when she was exposed on her top.” He said Ackerman was picked up and carried to the front door.
Judge Sheindlin noted that Ackerman’s own police report acknowledged that she was “buzzed” at the time. The plaintiff denied that the security guard spoke to her or asked her to leave and said “I did not swear within the club.”
Hodges then produced a witness to testify about Ackerman’s alleged intoxication, while Ackerman’s witness said that bouncers grabbed her from behind without stating who they were or why she was being ejected.
Judge Sheindlin next read aloud from a police report filed by a deputy police officer who spoke with the plaintiff outside the bar shortly after the alleged assault. The deputy stated “Ackerman was very drunk, she smelled strongly of alcoholic beverages, her movements were slow and uncoordinated and her speech was slurred.” The report also said that police considered arresting her that evening for being drunk in public.
“Miss Ackerman, you don’t have a case,” announced the Judge. “You can’t hold your alcohol, you shouldn’t drink alcohol…you behaved badly and that’s what happened, you got thrown out. Live with it. Goodbye.”
Ackerman’s lawsuit against David Hodges and the Belly Up Tavern was dismissed.
“I just wasn’t comfortable that they got away with manhandling me the way they did so I tried to make a point out of it,” Ackerman said in the walkout interview. “I wasn’t at fault, whether I was drunk or not…I should have been treated a little differently.”
Hodges had his own take. “I think people forget what they did under the influence of alcohol.”
(NOTE: A look through court records indicates the disposition of this case took place in 2003)
RELATED BLOG LINKS: "Lawsuits - Lawyers, Songs, and Money" -- 3-part series detailing Southern CA lawsuits involving venues, performers, patrons, etc. Includes separate feature covering rock stars who've been arrested in San Diego thru the years. http://www.sandiegoreader.com/weblogs/bands/2008/mar/28/more-local-music-lawsuits-plus-celebs-busted-in-sd/
Concert Security Wars: Battle of the Bouncers -- San Diego security firms fight (AND SUE) for their right to bounce you! http://www.sandiegoreader.com/weblogs/bands/2008/apr/24/concert-security-wars-battle-of-the-bouncers/
Like this blog? Here are some related links:
OVERHEARD IN SAN DIEGO - Several years' worth of this comic strip, which debuted in the Reader in 1996: http://www.sandiegoreader.com/photos/galleries/overheard-san-diego/
FAMOUS FORMER NEIGHBORS - Over 100 comic strips online, with mini-bios of famous San Diegans: http://www.sandiegoreader.com/photos/galleries/famous-former-neighbors/
SAN DIEGO READER MUSIC MySpace page: http://www.myspace.com/sandiegoreadermusic
JAY ALLEN SANFORD MySpace page: http://www.myspace.com/jayallensanford