Cook County Record

Monday, December 9, 2019

Appeals court: Night club not on hook for man's brain injury allegedly caused by bouncer opening door


By Charmaine Little | Oct 4, 2018

Bilandic building

CHICAGO – A state appeals court has upheld the dismissal of a lawsuit that attempted to make a night club in suburban Burbank pay for the injuries suffered by a man who was struck by an outward opening door on New Year's Eve 2012, saying the man should have recognized the danger of standing in front of the door when the club had posted a sign denying reentry to anyone outside.

On Sept. 25, a three-justice panel of the Illinois First District Appellatee Court in Chicago affirmed a trial court’s order that granted summary judgment to the business known as The Club Inc. in the dispute with plaintiff Gabriel Sarna.

“When (plaintiff Gabriel) Sarna exited the premises with notice that he would not be permitted to re-enter, he was no longer a business invitee,” the appellat justices determined. “Moreover, Sarna should have appreciated the open and obvious risk of standing directly in front of a door that can only open outward.” 

Considering this, the justices said Sarna failed to establish that he was entitled to a certain level of protection by the venue.

According to the ruling, Sarna and his wife, Nichole Inglot, were at The Club for a New Year’s party, beginning Dec. 31, 2011. While there, Sarna allegedly drank five alcoholic drinks. He and his wife left the club and walked out of the main door. That door had a sign next to it that told patrons they wouldn’t be allowed to go back into the club once they left. 

The ruling states Sarna attempted to hail a taxi but before it pulled up, there was a fight with other people standing nearby and he and his wife tried to go back inside. Sarna stood just 2 feet away from the door, which opened and hit Sarna as a bouncer was removing a man who was inside. Sarna was knocked unconscious.

Sarna ultimately suffered a brain injury including a brain hemorrhage and skull fracture. He added that he’s also lost his sense of smell and taste. Inglot testified and said Sarna’s behavior altered after the incident. 

Sarna filed a lawsuit alleging negligence and breach of duty, asserting The Club didn’t keep a safe environment for its patrons. A Cook County judge granted summary judgment for The Club, as well as other defendants, including one of the venue’s bouncers.

On appeal, the justices sided with The Club, as well.

Justice Mary Anne Mason authored the decision, while justices Terrence J. Lavin and Aurelia Pucinski concurred. The decision was issued as an unpublished order under Supreme Court Rule 23, limiting its use as precedent.

Mason said, while Sarna did buy tickets to the event, he was no longer considered an invitee when he and his wife left the venue. Plus, Sarna didn’t have any intentions on getting back into the club when he left. So, because Sarna left the club without initially planning to go back in, was informed via the sign that he wasn’t allowed back in, and that he tried to re-enter by opening a door that was locked, he was not an invitee, Mason said.

Even if Sarna was able to keep the invitee status, the defendants don’t have to protect its patrons from “potentially dangerous conditions that are open and obvious,” which was the case in Sarna’s incident, the justices said. A “reasonable person” would have seen the door as potentially dangerous and knew that standing that close to it could end badly, the justices said.

According to Cook County court records, Sarna is represented by the firm of Glen J. Dunn & Associates, of Chicago. 

The Club has been represented by attorneys with the firm of Cray Huber, of Chicago.

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Organizations in this Story

Cray Huber Horstman Heil and VanAusdal LLC Illinois First District Appellate CourtGlen J. Dunn & AssociatesCircuit Court of Cook County

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