Premises Liability/Negligence/Police Misconduct. The plaintiff was attempting to retrieve his car and get out of the parking lot at Gladstones 4 Fish restaurant after the 4th of July fireworks at the beach. Unfortunately, several hundred people had the same idea. Pacific Coast Highway was jammed. Upon being told that he would have to wait in line like everybody else to get his keys, the plaintiff attempted to grab the lock box containing all the keys and throw it in the Pacific Ocean. We represented the valet company and restaurant. Several police officers who were on routine patrol at the parking lot were summoned. The plaintiff became unruly and was placed, temporarily and without handcuffs, in the back of a squad car until he calmed down. Because of a strong smell of alcohol and his irrational behavior, the police officers had him go home by taxi. Six months later he showed up with a broken nose and a police misconduct lawsuit. After the case dragged well past the 5 year mark (it was filed long before the institution of “Fast Track Rules” in Los Angeles), the parties stipulated to a bench trial. The City of Los Angeles and the restaurant were exonerated. The judge award plaintiff a meager $6,000 against the valet company. A rather curious result because the judge basically called the plaintiff a liar in open court. This position was confirmed by dismissing the complaint against the police officers. The result is inconsistent because if he believed the police officers, the judge had to believe the valet defendant because their testimony supported each other. While the award was negligible, it still shows the pitfalls of stipulating to a bench trial and the potential resulting prejudice from having the case heard by one particular jurist as opposed to convincing 9 of 12 jurors.

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