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Worker beaten by karaoke customers can proceed with claims


A restaurant worker beaten unconscious by patrons of the neighboring karaoke bar may proceed with his personal injury claims against the mall lessee and shareholders of the restaurant.

In Zhang v. ABC Corp., the Supreme Court of New York, Appellate Division, Second Department on Wednesday affirmed a decision to deny summary judgment to the defendants who alleged they owed no duty of care to the worker and were entitled to immunity under the workers compensation act. 

Zhi Eric Zhang worked for Imperial Crown Corp., a management company formed by two shareholders of Grand Restaurant Group Inc., to operate the restaurant Imperial Crown, which was located on the third floor of a mall and adjacent to a karaoke bar. New World Mall LLC leased the entire mall and sublet the third floor of the mall to GRGI.

On April 28, 2012, a drunk customer from the karaoke establishment came into the restaurant and got into an altercation with Mr. Zhang. The man left but returned with about 20 others, who beat Mr. Zhang unconscious.

Mr. Zhang filed a complaint against New World and GRGI and others for personal injuries. New World and GRGI moved for summary judgment, arguing that they did not owe Mr. Zhang a duty to protect him from an unforeseen and unexpected assault. GRGI also argued that it was entitled to immunity under the exclusivity provisions of workers compensation law since it was the “alter ego” of Mr. Zhang’s employer.

The Supreme Court of Queens County denied their motions and the parties appealed.

The appellate court affirmed the ruling, holding that New World and GRGI failed to establish that the assault was unforeseeable and unexpected, noting that the companies’ witnesses claimed they “a lack of memory” as to whether there had been prior fights on the third floor of the mall. The court also found evidence of “an escalating situation” between Mr. Zhang and the drunk man, negating the argument that it was sudden and without warning.

The appellate court also held that GRGI failed to establish that it was the “alter ego” of Mr. Zhang’s employer and that the two operate as a single entity or that the entities exercised control of each other’s day-to-day operations.




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