Jury Awards $5.42M to Woman Raped in WeHo Nightclub
A Santa Monica jury awarded a female news producer $5.42 million for a West Hollywood nightclubs’ negligence, after an employee allegedly raped her in the restroom.
The LA Times reported that the 43-year-old woman sued the Here Lounge and worker Victor Cruz for sexual assault on March 23, 2009. After a 15-day trial, jurors found that Cruz was responsible for 60 percent of the crime, and that the lounge was negligent and responsible for 40 percent of the harm.
"This club turned a blind eye to sexual activity that was allowed to occur in the restroom area," attorney John Taylor told the LA Times. "Although they had a stated policy of security guards being present in the bathrooms, they weren’t present at the time of the attack. The guards abandoned the place where most problems go on."
The woman had been drinking with a friend on the evening in question. After he took a cab home, the woman went into the Here Lounge at 696 N. Robertson Blvd. shortly after 12:30 a.m., got a bottle of water and sat on the patio.
When she visited a unisex bathroom ten minutes later, Cruz allegedly stormed in and sexually assaulted her. She ran out crying and yelling that she had been raped, and a stranger called 911. She was taken to the Santa Monica/UCLA Rape Treatment Center. During the trial, an expert from the Center said the woman’s injuries were among the worst they had seen.
After DNA evidence was taken, Cruz was arrested in December 2009. After the woman identified the employee in a police lineup, he told sheriff’s deputies that the woman approached him and asked for sex, but he refused her advances. He later said that he may have masturbated by the woman.
An initial criminal trial resulted in a hung jury; a later trial acquitted Cruz. The woman now suffers from PTSD. The ABC Department closed Here last December because of alleged violations.
WeHoVille also reported that last year, two women filed charges against the Abbey, a gay bar and restaurant next door to Here Lounge, alleging that Abbey employees had raped them in 2011. They are seeking $10 million in damages in a suit that has not yet come to trial.