ALLENTOWN, Pa. Dec 5 2016- The family of a Lehigh County man who died after a fall at an Allentown strip club alleges staff should have recognized he was too drunk to be left alone leaning against a wall outside the club.
The brother of Gerald Dougherty filed a lawsuit this week in Lehigh County Court against the owners of Platinum Plus, blaming staff for the fatal fall that occurred in the early morning hours of Dec. 25, 2015, outside the club at 1251 Airport Road.
The four-count civil suit seeks at least $200,000 from the club owner based in Columbia, S.C.
The lawsuit claims Dougherty, of Lowhill Township, was a “business invitee” of Platinum Plus on Dec. 24. Staff served him alcohol into the early-morning hours of Christmas Day despite the 56-year-old being “visibly intoxicated,” according to court papers.
Dougherty drank “copious amounts of alcohol” throughout the night despite clear signs that he was very drunk, including barely being able to walk and the fact that he became more and more verbally aggressive as the night dragged on. But despite those signs staff continued to serve him.
Security staff eventually removed Dougherty from the building once he began stumbling and falling inside the club. The lawsuit alleges that security propped him up against a wall instead of at least sitting him down or calling a cab.
Dougherty was so drunk he couldn’t stand on his own without help, eventually falling down and “violently striking his head.” Witnesses told police they saw him stumbling and falling backwards in the parking lot, according to court papers.
Allentown paramedics arrived about 1:30 a.m. to tend to an unconscious Dougherty. He was pronounced dead at St. Luke’s Allentown Campus shortly after 1 p.m. Dec. 26.
A blood sample showed a blood alcohol level of about 0.2 percent, according to court papers. Most charges for drunk driving, for instance, begin at 0.08 percent.
Dougherty’s fatal injuries included lacerations to the scalp, brain bleeds and fractures to the base of the skull.
The suit alleges negligence for, among other reasons, failing to train staff about cutting off visibly drunk patrons and not having policies dictating when a patron should no longer be served alcohol.
The attorney representing Dougherty’s family also argues Platinum Plus violated state law when staff continued to sell alcohol to a clearly inebriated customer.
Pennsylvania is among 30 states that have what are known as “dram shop civil liability” laws. The statutes allow licensed businesses like bars and restaurants to be held liable for serving alcohol to visibly drunken patrons, who injure themselves or others.
A Platinum Plus manager said he was unaware of a lawsuit filed against the club and said any comment would have to come from a club attorney. He could not provide the name of the club’s attorney.
Authorities said that last October charged the clubs with promoting prostitution after nearly a dozen performers were arrested in a prostitution sting.