Jury hears closing arguments at Top Deck trial

Steve Garrison
A jury was deliberating Thursday on charges that employees and owners of the Top Deck bar in Farmington were negligent and engaged in racial discrimination.

FARMINGTON — Attorneys made closing statements and jurors deliberated for about two hours Thursday in a lawsuit alleging negligence and racial discrimination at the Top Deck bar in Farmington.

Jurors were considering charges that include civil battery, negligence and intentional infliction of emotional distress. The jury will reconvene at 8 a.m. today.

Brothers Dustin Curley and Justin Curley seek tens of thousands of dollars from defendants to treat injuries sustained in a fight with bar staff outside the Top Deck on St. Patrick's Day in 2012. Veronica Curley further seeks compensation for the loss of the companionship of her husband, Dustin Curley.

Plaintiffs' attorney Mitch Burns argued the Curley brothers "got the hell beat out of them" by staff at Top Deck due to an atmosphere of lawlessness at the bar.

"This is a real-life, nonfiction Road House," Burns said.

Road House is a 1989 film starring Patrick Swayze as "James Dalton," a bouncer who brings order to the violent Double Deuce bar in Jasper, Mo. The film received mixed reviews upon its release, but has since garnered a cult following due to its frenetic fight scenes.

"Dustin and Justin — all they wanted to do was go out and have a couple beers," Burns said, adding later. "All of a sudden the trajectory of their lives changed at a Road House bar."

Burns said Susan Douglas, the property owner, and her son, Matt Douglas, the manager at Top Deck, were negligent by failing to train bouncers and establish procedures for handling altercations.

"(Susan Douglas) knew about the danger to patrons at the bar," Burns said. "Dustin and Justin didn't know. It could have been me, it could have been you."

Emet Rudolfo, attorney for Susan Douglas and her son, said the plaintiffs were attacking Susan Douglas because she had "the deepest pockets."

"The person who did the beating is most responsible," Rudolfo said.

Rudolfo suggested other parties — Farmington police, patrons and the bar's corporate owner — were responsible for the brother's injuries. He urged the jurors not to allow emotion to cloud their judgment.

The brothers testified earlier this week they were at Top Deck on St. Patrick's Day in 2012 to reconnect after the death of their sister. Justin Curley told the jury Tuesday he got into a verbal argument outside the bar at closing time with another patron and his brother attempted to intercede.

Dustin Curley was then punched in the face. He lost partial eyesight about a month after the fight due to a detached retina.

Justin Curley was punched in the face and then kicked in the head while on the ground. The brothers allege in the lawsuit Matt Douglas punched Justin Curley and another bouncer, Drew Jackson, kicked him.

Defendants allege Jackson was an ex-bouncer. They claim Jackson was at Top Deck on St. Patrick's Day as a patron.

Drew Jackson and another former bartender, Dustin Jacobs, did not attend the trial. Judge Sandra Price told the jury they are therefore found liable on all claims by default.

Tyler Black, a former bartender and bouncer at Top Deck, testified Tuesday he punched Dustin Curley, but said he did it in self-defense.

Black further testified that Top Deck manager Matt Douglas discouraged staff from calling police and used racial slurs against Native Americans. Black said he was never trained as a bouncer, staff drank on the job and bouncers sometimes used "extreme" violence in altercations with patrons.

Matt Douglas denied most of those claims in his own testimony Wednesday, but he admitted staff were not trained.

Black is representing himself at trial. He said in his closing statement he has been truthful throughout the proceedings and he denied the fight with the Curleys was racially motivated.

"No part of it was racial," he said. "I don't see that in people."

Steve Garrison covers crime and courts for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4644.