A Baltimore Circuit Court jury has awarded more than $300,000 in damages to a 22-year-old man who was severely beaten four years ago by bouncers at Hammerjacks nightclub.
The verdict came Wednesday after 2 1/2 hours of deliberations and three days of testimony before Judge John N. Prevas. A lawyer for Hammerjacks said the club will appeal the decision.
The jury awarded Daniel M. Bowen, now a Marine Corps corporal, $10,655 in medical expenses, $140,000 in compensatory damages and $150,000 in punitive damages.
Bowen was a senior at Lansdowne High School when he went to Hammerjacks the night of Feb. 8, 1987, to celebrate his 18th birthday. Although he was under the legal drinking age, Bowen was admitted to the club because his friends "fixed things" with the bouncers at the door, Bowen's lawyer, Barry C. Steel, told the jury.
Bowen and his friends were drinking "kamikazes," a strong combination of vodka, tequila and other liquors, according to testimony. The short, 135-pound teen-ager became drunk quickly. He touched the hair of a young woman.
A bouncer wearing a black satin "Hammerjacks Security" jacket warned Bowen to keep his hands off female patrons. A while later, when Bowen touched the hair of another young woman, two bouncers wearing security jackets pounced on him, according to testimony.
In court, wearing his Marine Corps uniform, Bowen testified that he was punched and kicked after he was on the floor. Bowen said he was hit so hard his bottom teeth pressed up against the roof of his mouth. Four bouncers then picked him up and "dumped" him in the parking lot outside.
Bowen spent six weeks in a hospital, where his mouth was wired shut until he could have surgery to repair a broken jaw, according to testimony.
Deborah Szarko, 21, a legal secretary and a friend of Bowen's, testified that she was standing near Bowen when he was jumped by the bouncers. She also testified that she had started going to Hammerjacks when she turned 16, using false identification.
Two Baltimore police officers testified that after the incident was reported, Louis Principio 3rd, the club's owner, told them the bouncers who attacked Bowen had been fired. The two bouncers were identified but never found. Principio, called as a witness by the plaintiff, testified that he had no knowledge of the assault.
Daniel Karp, who represented Hammerjacks, called no witnesses. But he tried to show during his statements to the jury that Bowen was a young man given to poor judgment. He told the jury that tests taken at the hospital three hours after the beating showed that Bowen's blood alcohol level was 0.29.
Under Maryland law, a person is legally drunk if the blood alcohol level is 0.10 or higher.
After the verdict, Principio rushed out of the courtroom. Karp said, "We're disappointed and we expect to appeal."
Bowen kissed his mother and thanked his lawyer.
"The lesson I learned is that underage people shouldn't go to bars when you don't have a right to be there," Bowen said. "But I'm still upset because I was very drunk and I shouldn't have been beaten that way."
Steel said, "The message is don't try to make a living off these young kids and try to do more to ensure that your security force is more than a bunch of renegades."