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Man Beaten by Security Guard Wins $58M

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By Aditi Mukherji, JD on July 08, 2013 8:27 AM

A California jury has awarded Antonio Lopez Chaj $58 million after a brutal beating by a security guard. The attack left him with injuries so severe that a portion of his skull and brain had to be removed.

With his left brain damaged and deformed, Chaj cannot speak, needs help to walk and needs 24-hour care as a result of the beating that happened three years ago in a Los Angeles-area bar, his attorneys say.

After hearing evidence about the horrific April 2010 beating, a jury in Torrance awarded the 43-year-old immigrant house painter the staggering award in economic and medical losses.

$58M for Pain, Suffering, Medical Expenses

Chaj's attorney said an unlicensed, untrained security guard with DGSP Security and Patrol Service beat Chaj with a baton or metal bar, kicked him in the head eight times and bashed his skull on the pavement four times.

Chaj was attacked after he tried to intervene in a fight between one of his two nephews and the bar manager, reports the Los Angeles Times. The guard also didn't have a permit to use a baton, let alone a metal one.

The damage award against the security firm -- $35 million for past pain and suffering, $11.5 million for future medical expenses and $11 million for future pain and suffering -- is one of the largest ever given to an individual in California.

Security Guard's Employer Held Liable

The guard was never charged in the case because police said they lacked independent witnesses to the assault. He and the bartender who started the fight disappeared before the civil trial.

The security firm was directly liable for its negligent hiring and training of an untrained, unlicensed security guard.

But the security firm is also liable under the doctrine of respondeat superior.

Respondeat superior, which means "let the master answer," is a legal principle that holds an employer liable for the negligence of its employees in certain circumstances. In order for respondeat superior to apply, the negligent act must have occurred within the "scope of employment."

In this case, the guard's actions were quite clearly within the scope of employment, so vicarious liability applies.

Chaj's lawyers -- including Fernando Chavez, the eldest son of the late farm workers' leader Cesar Chavez -- expect the security firm to ask the judge to reduce the judgment.

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