A jury handed down a multi-million dollar verdict Monday afternoon against a popular bar in Neptune Beach.
Joshua Mathews sued the iconic Pete's Bar in 2013 for the traumatic brain injury he sustained during a fight in the parking lot.
The two week trial in Duval County circuit court ended with a jury deciding that Pete’s Bar should be held liable for Mathews over $18 million in damages.
Attorney Michael Pajic said his client wasn’t allowed to testify in court because of his disabilities.
Pajic says Mathews suffers from a brain condition limiting his ability to express himself. Pajic says Mathews was a regular at Pete’s Bar, and was intoxicated on July 22, 2012 when a fight erupted.
“It was at closing time, and there was a verbal altercation right out at the entrance and another patron was inserted into that altercation,” Pajic says. “A brawl started, and Josh tried to break it up and got punched and fell and hit his head on the cement.”
The violent brawl sent Mathews to the hospital and into a coma for two months. He uses the assistance of a cane or walker when moving, and though he understands conversations, he has trouble finding the words to respond.
Pete’s Bar is one of the oldest in Duval County and is recognized as the first to obtain a liquor license after the end of prohibition in 1933.
Each year droves of patrons flock to Pete’s on Thanksgiving day for an event coordinated by the beachfront business.
The 2012 brawl happened outside the bar’s doors, but Mathews attorneys say the business was negligent in the amount of security it provided.
"What this shows is a bar's duty can extend outside its premises,” says Pajic. “Even as patrons are exiting, they have a duty to keep the area around their bar safe."
Defense attorneys representing the bar argued Mathews assumed the risk of injury when he joined the fight. The bar’s answer to the lawsuit identifies seven individuals that were responsible for the altercation.
However, Monday a jury sided with the man who longs to express himself again and who hopes the favorable verdict will lead to better medical treatment and bigger steps toward recovery.
Pete’s Bar’s owners did not respond to requests for a comment on the verdict.