SOURCE: Law Office of David C. Anderson

September 19, 2011 19:51 ET

Court Approves $1.75 Million Settlement of Wrongful Death Suit Against San Francisco Nightclub

21-Year-Old Fatally Shot Outside Club Cocomo

SAN FRANCISCO, CA--(Marketwire - Sep 19, 2011) - Eduardo Mendoza and Denise Mendoza, parents of Justin Mendoza, obtained court approval of the settlement in the wrongful death suit (Case No. CGC-070461540) against Club Cocomo, K-Dubb Security, and the property owners for $1.75 million. Justin Mendoza, 21 years old at the time, was fatally shot on March 21, 2005, on Indiana Street near Club Cocomo after attending a "hip-hop" event.

"Nightclub violence is a serious problem in San Francisco. Police, politicians, citizens, and even the industry-friendly San Francisco Entertainment Commission are beginning to scrutinize, restrict licenses, and even close outfits like Club Cocomo. This precedent-setting settlement should serve as a wake-up call to the clubs that cater to and profit from the violence-prone club-goers without taking any responsibility for the consequences," said David C. Anderson of the Law Office of David C. Anderson, who represented the Mendoza family. "The history of violence not only inside the nightclub but out on Indiana Street should have resulted in its closure years ago. Unfortunately, no action was ever taken and the promising life of Justin was ended. The Mendoza family hopes this settlement will send a loud and clear message that enough is enough and that no family will have to suffer the loss of a loved one due to preventable violence."

Records from the San Francisco Police Department (SFPD) indicated a long history of fighting, stabbings, and use of weapons inside and in front of Club Cocomo, along with nearly 100 complaints of noise disturbances going back to January 1, 2004.

"In addition, two SFPD Bayview District sergeants described the club as one of the 'hot spots' known to law enforcement as a magnet for gangs and others prone to violence, particularly on hip-hop nights," added Anderson.

Case History:

On March 21, 2005, at approximately 2:00 a.m., Justin Mendoza was shot and killed near the entrance to Club Cocomo, located at 1650 Indiana Street. He was attending a hip-hop music event, promoted by Underworld Productions and Set 4 Life Entertainment, which had occurred earlier in the evening. The complaint alleged that a crowd between 200 - 600 people, most in their late teens and early twenties, poured into the streets of what is an industrial/commercial use neighborhood after the event ended.

The complaint also alleged that while Club Cocomo owners hired security, K-Dubb Security Co., owned by SFPD Officer Kevin Whitfield and which had guards at the nightclub, none of them were trained and licensed as required by State law and none of them attempted to disperse the intoxicated, loitering crowd, including many who were underage, or call the police.

A confrontation developed between two groups, one African American and the other Asian, which involved taunts, threats, and challenges to fight. Shortly after, Gerry Phongboupha pulled a gun from his vehicle and began shooting. An errant bullet hit Justin Mendoza in the heart as he was walking across the street. Mendoza was not acquainted with any of the combatants. He died minutes later in the arms of a friend who had rushed over to help him.

Four other bystanders were also hit but not fatally wounded. Phongboupha was subsequently tried and convicted of murder and is serving a life sentence at Pelican Bay State Prison.

The settlement includes a $1 million stipulated judgment against Club Cocomo and its owner, Daruka Wanigatunga; a $500,000 settlement with K-Dubb Security, Kevin Whitfield, and its insurer; and a $249,999 stipulated judgment with Abitsch & Abitsch, LLC, owners of the property leased to Club Cocomo. Subsequent litigation will be pursued by the Mendozas against Scottsdale Insurance Company which issued a comprehensive General Liability Policy to Wanigatunga but refused to provide coverage for the killing.

About the Law Office of David C. Anderson:

David C. Anderson is a plaintiffs' civil trial attorney with a practice focusing on product defects, dangerous conditions of property, nightclub and bar liability, police excessive force, professional malpractice, and vehicular accidents causing serious injury and/or death.

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