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Slain Woman’s Estate Sues Strip Club’s Owners

by Paul Bass | Mar 3, 2014 5:00 pm

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Posted to: Legal Writes, Wooster Square

Contributed Photo New Haven strip club owners “failed to take reasonable measures” to stop a man from shooting into the crowd and killing 26-year-old Erika Robinson, her estate charges in a lawsuit filed in Superior Court.

The suit seeks unspecified monetary damages (“in excess of” $15,000) against Fuun House Productions LLC, owner of the Key Club strip club at 133 Hamilton St. A gunman fired at a rival gang member inside the club at 3:30 a.m. Oct. 26, 2013, spraying a crowd with bullets and killing Robinson (pictured), an up-and-coming fashion designer. (Click here for an interview with her parents and here to read about her funeral.) The mass shooting sparked statewide outrage and calls for stricter controls on city clubs.

Over the protests of city officials, the club has since received state permission to reopen under a new name, Primo Gentleman’s Club.

Thomas MacMillan Photo The lawsuit, filed by attorney Michael Dolan (pictured at a November press conference outside the club about the family’s intention to file suit), charges that club’s management with “negligence and carelessness” that led to Robinson’s death.

The club allowed the alleged shooter “to remain on the Defendant premises, after he exhibited disorderly, disruptive, argumentative, angry and/or agitated behavior toward patrons”; “ignored and tolerated” that behavior; and failed to train employees or hire adequate security to prevent such behavior,  the suit charges.

“There’s an expectation that patrons are going to be safe,” Dolan said in an interview Monday afternoon. “Erika Robinson had that expectation when she entered the Key Club.”

“Our position is that we provided more than adquate security, more than other clubs provide in New Haven and the surrounding area.” attorney Benjamin Proto responded in an interview. Proto has been representing the club in the wake of the incident; he said no decision has yet been made about which attorney will handle the defense against the lawsuit.

“Unfortunately a person acted in the way he acted, resulting in the death of Miss Robinson and other people being injured. But we had eight security guards, I believe, working that night. We had hired a police officer who was there at the club when it happened. ... We had surveillance. We patted down. We wanded. I’m not sure what else we could have done. Whether or not that was adequate is a matter for a jury” to determine.

Proto said he has “no knowledge” of any allegations that the shooter acted in a disorderly or disruptive way prior to opening fire.

“The guy who killed her is not being sued,” he added. “Why not?”

To which attorney Dolan responded: “They’re welcome to bring in any other parties they feel are responsible.”

Paul Bass Photo Proto said the club has, since reopening in January, complied with special conditions set by the state Department of Consumer Protection. Those conditions included having the club:

• Install security cameras
• Hire security guards
• Conduct background checks of all staff
• Hire two extra-duty city cops at the club from 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday until closing.
• Scan all clubgoers with a metal detector and pat them down if need be.

In the wake of Robinson’s death, Mayor Toni Harp has made a package of proposed new rules tightening control of nightclubs a centerpiece of the city’s state legislative agenda this year.

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