Houston has an interesting wrongful death case that appears to be something of a developing trend across the country. Rick’s Cabaret is being sued by Mattie Jean Johnson after her son was killed by a drunk stripper leaving work. These businesses make their money off drinks — often purchased for the strippers. The resulting accidents have led to a number of lawsuits by both strippers and third parties. Now, for those of you who are into legal trivia, why does Rick’s Cabaret ring a bell?
In the morning of Dec. 31, 2007, Micaela Liem was leaving work at Rick’s Cabaret allegedly drunk due to the drink policy. In the meantime, Johnson’s son, Clinton Washington, was standing along side of the road, calling for help for a motorist whose SUV had rolled over. Johnson plowed into Washington and was later charged with intoxicated manslaughter.
On one level, Johnson’s lawsuit fits a classic dram shop model. The dancer’s blood alcohol was .215, more than twice the legal limit and she cites the lack of supervision and the drink policy of the strip club as the cause for the accident. The complaint states that, under the policy: “The more drinks the customers bought for the dancers, the more Rick’s would profit,” the lawsuit states. “The dancers’, including Liem’s, decision to consume alcohol while on the job was not voluntary. Rather, it was mandatory in order to continue successful employment at Rick’s.”
The lawsuit claims include negligence, gross negligence and wrongful death against both Liem and Rick’s.
This is similar to another lawsuit filed recently where a stripper sued for a post-work accident, here. Indeed, it seems that strip clubs are becoming a magnet for tort lawsuits with lawsuits over negligent pole dancing and negligent lap dancing. There is a recent age discrimination lawsuit from a stripper and an assault case by JetBlue pilots linked to a strip club.
However, these alcohol-related accidents are probably the most significant. For years, these businesses has generated profits by encouraging excessive drinking by both customers and employees. It was inevitable that they would eventually be sued. Part of these lawsuits is a classic dram shop claim by a third party suing a bar for “over-serving.” However, they are also classic negligence claims based on the policies and supervision governing employees.
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TRIVIA ANSWER: Rick’s Cabaret was the workplace of one Anna Nicole Smith before her rise from stripper to television star to probate queen to Supreme Court litigant.