Designated driver gets $209K after being tossed out of a bar

The Tampa Bay area man who says he was roughed up and tossed out of a bar because he wouldn't drink alcohol has won a $209,000 judgment against two people and the company that owns Carlie's Lounge. [via tampbay]

A jury returned the verdict this week, but it only heard one side of the story. That's because the bar owner made "a business decision" not to come to court and defend against the lawsuit, said his attorney, Melinda Tindell.

The case led the Florida Legislature to pass the "designated driver law," which prevents bars from kicking out customers who don't drink alcohol.

It began in 2006, when Gary Maujean went to Carlie's Lounge, 7020 49th St. N, as part of a group of five people, including his wife. He was the designated driver.

According to Maujean, bar manager Vincenzo Romano objected to the fact that he wouldn't drink alcohol, and insisted that he do so. Their argument turned into a scuffle, and Maujean wound up with an injury to his arm that required surgery, according to his attorney, Tom Carey.

"I felt really happy about the decision," Maujean said afterward. "It means a lot to me that people out there do care about people that want to take the responsibility of being a designated driver."

Tindell denied that Romano hurt Maujean or demanded that he drink alcohol. She said Romano complained because Maujean had rested his head on a table and was sleeping. And then he asked Maujean to get a drink — "any kind of drink, water, soda, juice, he didn't care," Tindell said.

Romano says there's no way he was sleeping inside Carlie's, known for its live music. "It's too loud to do that. … The only people who do that are people who drink too much."

Tindell said Romano had an insurance policy but discovered that "it didn't cover what you would expect to be the most common occurrence at a bar — a bar fight."

Without an insurance company to foot the bill for his defense, he decided not to fight in court, she said.

"It's not as rare an occurrence as you might think, because the costs of trying a case are quite high," she added.

Carey said he would contact a collections specialist to see about recovering the amount of the verdict. The judgment also was lodged against another man, Stanley J. Clark, a bouncer at the bar who could not be located and also was not present at the trial.

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