PORTSMOUTH — After Demeters Steakhouse overserved customer Derek Malila, who is accused in a lawsuit of dragging and beating another bar patron, "Demeters actually rewarded the defendant Malila for his assault and battery of Mr. (Theodore) Vrettos, paying his bar charges and facilitating his departure from the restaurant before the Portsmouth police arrived."
Those allegations are included in an amended 5-count lawsuit against Demeters and Malila alleging negligence by Demeters, assault and battery by Malila and intentional infliction of emotional distress by both. In an objection by Demeters' lawyer Michael Johnson, the 3612 Lafayette Road steakhouse asks the court to dismiss the claims, arguing they don't prove Demeters' alleged conduct was intentional, or done with the purpose of harming Vrettos.
Malila is represented by Manchester attorney Fred Desmariais, who could not immediately be reached for comment.
The Rockingham County Superior Court lawsuit was amended by attorney Benjamin King, on behalf of Vrettos and his wife Christine Vrettos, both of Portsmouth. It comes in response to a judge's December order stating the Vrettoses did not adequately argue Demeters had an obligation to protect Vrettos, but allowed for another filing to make that case.
Their new filing claims Demeters began serving Malila alcoholic beverages 70 minutes before they arrived on Jan. 30, 2018, continued to serve him throughout their stay and the restaurant has policies that "discourage personnel from 'cutting a guest off.'" After they finished their meal, the couple alleges, Christine Vrettos went to the foyer to make a phone call and her husband remained at the bar to pay the bill.
The couple alleges Malila then, "completely unprovoked," began yelling at Vrettos, "charged across the room toward Mr. Vrettos, grabbed Mr. Vrettos by the shoulder and neck, tore Mr. Vrettos from his chair and dragged him past the hostess station and through the restaurant foyer to the outside, hitting Mr. Vrettos while he did so. Once outside, the defendant, Malila, threw Mr. Vrettos to the ground. Mr. Vrettos smashed his head on the concrete."
The couple's amended suit alleges Demeters failed to take any action to stop "the attack," in spite of it occurring in front of restaurant personnel inside, past a staffed hostess station, then outside. They argue that makes their case that their injuries were foreseeable and it was incumbent upon the restaurant to take action to prevent them.
In response, Demeters counters the Vrettos fail to prove the alleged acts were sufficient to put staff on notice of a confrontation between the two men that would legally obligate the restaurant to prevent the alleged assault. The couple also fails to prove Demeters' conduct was motivated by hate or hostility, therefore they're not entitled to compensatory damages, the restaurant lawyer argues.
Demeters cites case law stating "a private citizen has no general duty to protect others from the criminal attacks of third parties." It also refers to a court ruling that found "the spontaneity and unexpected nature of an attack weighed against a finding of a duty on behalf of a property owner."
The new suit alleges Christine Vrettos saw her husband's assault and called 911, but officer Nicholas Small was unable to interview Malila because he "had already fled the restaurant by the time (Small) arrived, with the assistance of Demeters’ personnel." It claims Demeters continued to serve drinks to Malila when a "reasonably prudent person" would have known he was intoxicated and the incident was not isolated because it reflected Demeters' alleged policy of "discouraging staff from 'cutting off' patrons. Demeters then "rewarded" Malia by paying his tab and "facilitating his departure," the Vrettos conclude.
Theodore Vrettos went to Portsmouth Regional Hospital, where he was diagnosed with a concussion and was told to consult with an ophthalmologist, “because he was experiencing vision loss in his right eye,” he claims in the suit. He continues to require medical treatment “for his attack-related injuries,” he alleges. The new suit seeks an enhanced award for injuries, suffering, lost wages, medical bills and mental harm.
Demeters argues the alleged assault was not foreseeable and because it had no duty to protect Theodore Vrettos from Malila, it also can't be held liable for Christine Vrettos' claim for emotional distress. Demeters asks the court to dismiss the allegations and deny the amended lawsuit.