The family of a Temple University graduate who was beaten to death in Old City will receive the largest settlement of its kind in city history against the owners of two Philadelphia bars where the man’s killers — two who were underage — were served alcohol before the killing.
The family of Kevin Kless will receive a $7-million settlement — $1 million from the former Lucy’s Hat Shop on Market Street in Old City and $6 million from G Lounge on 17th Street in Rittenhouse — that will be paid out by the defunct bars' insurance companies.
Kless was trying to hail a cab at 4th and Chestnut streets in the early hours of Jan. 14, 2012 when a car pulled up and an argument began. Kenneth Enriquiz-Santiago, Steven Ferguson, and Felix Carrillo got out of the car and began to punch and kick Kless. Investigators said Ferguson delivered a severe, closed-fist blow to the right side of Kless' head.
Kless died a short time later. The Temple University Fox School of Business grad was 23.
"The greatest horror for any parent is to lose a child," said attorney Robert J. Mongeluzzi of Center City Philadelphia-based law firm Saltz, Mongeluzzi, Barrett & Bendesky, P.C. "There is no lawsuit that can ever give them back what they really want.
The three men later pleaded guilty to their roles in the killing — Ferguson getting the most severe punishment of up to 10 years in prison.
Mongeluzzi's firm filed a wrongful-death lawsuit against the three convicts and the two bars. The suit alleged that multiple witnesses said Lucy’s and G Lounge both served the men — including Enriquiz-Santiago and Carillo who were underage at the time — to the point of “visible intoxication.”
"Our son would be alive today if those bars — their managers and their employees — had just followed the law, starting with denying entry to minors,” said John and Kendall Kless, Kevin’s parents, in a news release. “We intend to ensure that all bar owners understand that if they serve underage or intoxicated customers who cause harm, they will be held accountable and could be put out of business. We hope that this lawsuit will spur the industry to follow the laws, which are in place for a reason, and spare any other family from suffering the devastating, preventable loss we have endured.”
Dram Shop legislation, which holds bar owner responsible for serving alcohol to visibly intoxicated or underage patrons, allowed for the suit.
The law firm announced the historic settlement — believed to be the biggest of its kind in Philadelphia — Wednesday afternoon.
“In Kevin’s name, they have successfully and resoundingly delivered a message to the two bar-defendants, Lucy’s Hat Shop and G Lounge, that if you serve underage, drunken patrons, and they leave your bar and commit a heinous crime, you will be held accountable for your actions,” said Mongeluzzi.
Mongeluzzi said the bars maintained that their management and employees did nothing wrong to lead to Kless' death.
Lucy’s Hat Shop is no longer open after closing to give way for a construction project and G Lounge came under new ownership late last year under the re-branded name "1925."
"We couldn't have gotten any more than the $7 million we got," said Mongeluzzi, noting that a jury still could have ruled for more money in the case but the closed bars wouldn't have any more money in the bank.
This wasn't the only type of suit against Lucy's the same bar was named in a lawsuit where a Temple Law student allegedly shot another man after being served booze at Lucy's. Mongeluzzi said that case was resolved confidentially in 2014.
Mongeluzzi fears another lawsuit against an Old City bar is unfortunately inevitable.
"It's a problem of epidemic proportion," he said. "It's only a matter of time until someone is catastrophically injured or killed."