Former bouncer sues Banana Joe's over chokehold policy

By John O'Brien | Jul 10, 2006

CHARLESTON - A former bouncer at Banana Joe's nightclub in Charleston is alleging that management should have known that its policy of using chokeholds on customers would result in violence.

Marlon Ferguson, who claims to have been shot during a 2005 incident, filed a lawsuit July 6 in Kanawha Circuit Court against G&S Holdings, doing business as Banana Joe's Island Party, Charleston Entertainment and John Doe, an unknown patron who was tossed from the bar only to return with a gun.

On Oct. 30, 2005, Ferguson says he was working at Banana Joe's, which was recently stripped of its liquor license because of its inability to curb rowdy behavior and violent altercations.

Ferguson says a customer peacefully complained about the music being played, and he was instructed to put him in a headlock and toss him out.

"Prior to Oct. 30, 2005, bouncers at Banana Joe's were instructed by managers and supervisors to use force to remove non-threatening and non-violent customers from Banana Joe's premises," the complaint says.

"Bouncers of Banana Joe's were trained and instructed to 'choke customers out' by utilizing choke holds to cut off the customers' airways to render them unconscious."

This was done to the John Doe, and Ferguson says he returned later with a gun.

"The unidentified customer fired several gunshots through the glass door at Banana Joe's, striking Plaintiff in the head," the complaint says.

Charleston attorney C. Benjamin Salango of Preston and Salango is representing Ferguson, who says, "The dangerous and improper practice utilized by the bouncer at the time of the events giving rise to the cause of action created an unsafe condition for Banana Joe's customers and employees.

"It was reasonably foreseeable that the use of force by Banana Joe's bouncers in non-threatening, non-violent situations would cause customers to react in a violent and unpredictable manner."

Ferguson charges the defendants with deliberate intent and negligence. He is seeking compensatory and punitive damages, as well as court costs.

Judge Irene Berger has been assigned the case.

Kanawha Circuit Court case number 06-C-1307

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