Florida Negligent Security Lawyer, Victim of Crime at Business: Woman Suing Nightclub for Sexual Assault in Alley

A woman has filed a lawsuit that alleges employees at a Mexican restaurant and nightclub in Chicago escorted her to an alley behind the business and stood by as a man allegedly sexually assaulted her while she was intoxicated. 

No arrests have been made in the incident, which allegedly occurred October 18 behind El Hefe Chicago at 15 West Hubbard Street, commonly known as El Hefe.

According to lawyers who filed a lawsuit against the business on behalf of the woman, they believe the alleged assailant either works at the business or knows someone on the staff. 

On Wednesday, a judge ordered El Hefe to preserve any potential evidence pertaining to the alleged assault from that night, including surveillance video.

The woman’s lawyers released a security camera video, which they say Chicago police obtained from a nearby business. The video appears to show a man guiding a stumbling woman down an alley as two other men stand by a doorway.

El Hefe has not responded for comment, but the business posted a statement on Facebook saying its security staff did not witness a sexual assault.

“On the evening of October 18, a female guest became ill inside El Hefe and, per the venue’s standard protocol, was escorted by our security team to the back exit,” the statement said. “A male guest followed the female guest as she was escorted out back. El Hefe called an ambulance for the female guest and security remained with her until she left, alone, on the ambulance. During this time, our security team did not witness an assault in the alley. The male guest went back inside the venue and minutes later security witnessed the male guests leave the premises through the front door. We will work with law enforcement and cooperate in all facets necessary to help the authorities get the facts and enable a speedy investigation.”

Chicago police said officers went to Northwestern Hospital after receiving a report of a sexual assault involving a 23-year-old woman who was found unresponsive in the alley behind El Hefe. The victim completed a sexual assault kit at the hospital and Chicago police confirmed that she showed signs of trauma, a police spokesman said in a statement.

No arrests have been made and the investigation is ongoing, according to police.

The lawsuit, filed in Cook County Circuit Court, says the woman, identified only as Jane Doe, was having drinks at the bar when she was approached by an unknown man who continued to buy her drinks.

A bartender noticed the man make sexual advances and said her condition was “rapidly deteriorating” after consuming drinks the man purchased, according to the lawsuit. The bartender, who is not named, believed the woman had been drugged, the lawsuit said.

The bartender told the man to stop making sexual advances after the woman vomited at the bar, but the man replied, “she could not tell him what to do,” according to the lawsuit.

El Hefe security guards removed Jane Doe from the bar due to her “deteriorated condition” and ushered her out with the man into the rear alleyway behind the establishment, according to the lawsuit.

“The security guards that escorted the plaintiff into the dark alley with her assailant stayed in the alley while the plaintiff was sexually assaulted about 100 feet away,” the lawsuit says. No employee made any attempt to stop the alleged assault, the lawsuit says.

A 19-minute, 37-second video was taken from a business across the alley and given to the Chicago police. In the video, two men dressed in black stand by the back door to El Hefe as a third man, also clad in black but wearing red shoes, guides a stumbling woman out the door and down an alley lined with dumpsters.

The man and woman move into a shadowy area and it’s impossible to tell what they’re doing. The two other men go in and out of the door, standing outside for minutes at a time and sometimes approaching the spot where the man and woman appear to be.

Other people walk down the alley and several vehicles pass through. After about eight minutes, the man in red shoes walks down the alley and goes through the back door. Men who appear to be police officers walk down the alley and eventually flashing lights appear at the end of the alley.

The lawsuit does not specify the amount of damages sought.

Bars, restaurants, and nightclubs can be legally responsible for injuries that occur on their property. These businesses have a duty to protect their patrons from sexual assaults, shootings, and other violent crimes. Sadly, rape, fights, stabbings, and fatal shootings occur frequently in or outside these venues, especially when alcohol is involved. Incidents like these can result in serious injuries or even death.

When reasonable security is not set in place, bars, restaurants, and nightclubs can be held legally responsible for violent crime that occurs on their premises. Our Florida Negligent Security Attorneys at Whittel & Melton have extensive experience handling negligent security cases against these establishments.

What Is Negligent Security? 

There is an area of law under the general category of Premises Liability Law that is known as Negligent Security Law. Negligent security describes a situation where someone is the victim of a violent, criminal attack, such as an assault, shooting, rape or robbery, while on someone else’s property. 

Common examples of negligent security include: 

  • A customer being followed to their car in a shopping center and mugged before they can get in their car
  • A person being robbed or shot while removing money from an ATM machine
  • An assault inside a hotel room
  • A robbery at a gas station while filling up your car with gas
  • An assault in the lobby of an apartment complex
  • Lack of bouncers at a nightclub
  • Lack of video cameras at a bar
  • Lack of proper lighting at a restaurant
  • A business failing to conduct proper background checks on employees

The law imposes a duty on commercial establishments to maintain their property in a reasonably safe condition. That includes the obligation to be aware of what is going on around them in the community. If robberies, shootings, sexual attacks, and/or other violent criminal activity have been going on within a close proximity to the location where you were harmed, the property owner has a duty to do something about it to protect you. 

By pursuing justice with Whittel & Melton, we can assist you in holding the owners of the property where you were harmed responsible for their lack of protection. We can hold them liable for your suffering and work to make sure their security policies and procedures get updated to prevent further crimes from taking place. Suffering a sexual assault at a bar or nightclub can cost you physically, emotionally and financially, and we firmly believe you deserve financial compensation for your losses.

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