Mordhorst v Whisky-a Go Go

This was an 8 day trial. Plaintiff was a special education teacher and mother of a band member attending his first gig at the world famous Whisky a Go Go on the Sunset Strip. She had nothing to drink but fell coming down the interior staircase. She fractured her left ankle and sprained her right ankle with multiple complications during her recovery including a pulmonary embolism. She was put on Coumadin and had an IVC filter placed in her neck to prevent life threatening blood clots. Plaintiff’s counsel alleged that poor lighting of the stairs including broken strip lighting and wide handrails from the 1970s created a dangerous and hazardous condition. Our expert recreated the lighting at the time of the accident and showed that while dark, it did meet the building code requirement for lighting at a music venue during performance. Additionally, the handrails did meet the code requirements at the time installed so they were “grandfathered.” Plaintiff’s experts argued that the condition of some broken strip lighting created an illusion of a short landing in the middle of the staircase and that there was a blurring of the nose of the 4th step with the 3rd. However, neither plaintiff nor her family members who were also at the club that night offered any testimony that suggested Plaintiff thought there was a short landing in the staircase. In fact, she testified that she had already ascended the staircase without incident and was aware of some missing strip lighting. Despite 50 years of concerts starting in the 60s with the Doors and Jimi Hendrix through Guns & Roses and the Red Hot Chili Peppers, the Whisky had no previous litigation from falls on that staircase. Therefore, there was no prior notice of a dangerous condition and Hollywood night clubs are known to be dark. Plaintiff’s counsel argued in closing that the wide handrails made it impossible to grip the rails if someone was falling. He asked for 1.5 million in damages. We received a 9-3 verdict for the defense.

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