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Stabbing Death Arising From Pacific Beach Bar Fight Results in $495,000 Settlement by Casey Gerry Attorney

June 11, 2009 Press Releases

SAN DIEGO, Calif. – San Diego-based Casey Gerry announced today that a recent case — in which the firm represented the parents of a 25-year-old Navy veteran who died following an altercation in a Pacific Beach bar — was resolved for $495,000 in an out-of-court settlement.

Casey Gerry attorney Thomas D. Penfield settled the wrongful death suit on behalf of the victim’s parents, Judith Lefler and Anthony Panela, against Sam Kholi Enterprises Inc. dba as Sam’s by the Sea, a San Diego neighborhood bar which has since been sold. The suit claimed that their son, Jonathan Lefler-Panela, died because of negligence on the part of the bar owners in monitoring and training staff and bouncers.

The deceased, Jonathan Lefler-Panela, was hit twice by Michael Sullivan, another customer, in an unprovoked assault late one evening at Sam’s by the Sea on January 8, 2006.  According to Penfield, Lefler-Panela was attacked by Sullivan, but the bouncers did little to restrain him after ending the assault. Lefler-Panela  and his girlfriend were then put out of the bar — the door was locked behind them — and no one escorted them to their car or made sure Sullivan could not resume his attack.  “Sullivan, 27, then attacked Lefler-Panela as he spoke on his cell phone by his car in a parking stall a few feet from the bar,” Penfield said.  “A fistfight ensued, and as Sullivan lost the advantage, he pulled out a knife, stabbing Lefler-Panela 17 times.”

Lefler-Panela ultimately died, Penfield said, because “the bar didn’t have the proper number of bouncers, and those they did have were poorly trained.”  In addition, he noted, good security practice after a fight is to escort those involved out separately and make sure one has left the area before the other leaves.  “Releasing both parties from the bar at the same time — which happened in this case — results in a resumption of the fight 100% of the time according to experts,” Penfield noted. Additionally, the entertainment permit and the San Diego Municipal Code require the bar to patrol the parking areas and a 100 foot perimeter around the establishment, to insure patrons do not disturb the peace.

“We hope this settlement raises awareness amongst restaurant and bar owners about their responsibility toward their customers – and to the public,” Penfield said.  “Many countries mandate bouncer training, but the United States does not. Hopefully cases such as this will make people aware of the importance of proper training and supervision of security personnel.”

The previous criminal trial resulted in a second-degree murder conviction of Sullivan, who was sentenced to 17 years to life.

Casey Gerry
Established in 1947, Casey Gerry is the oldest plaintiffs’ law firm in San Diego.   The firm is located at 110 Laurel Street in the Banker’s Hill neighborhood of San Diego and has a satellite office in Carlsbad.   For more information, call (619) 238-1811 or visit the website