Muzik nightclub shooting victim's family files $2.5M lawsuit
Suit alleges club failed to take 'reasonable steps' to ensure patrons' safety during OVO Fest after-party
The family of one of the victims of last summer's double shooting at Muzik nightclub is suing the venue for $2.5 million, alleging that "it failed to take reasonable steps to ensure the safety of patrons."
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Lawyer Michael Smitiuch of Smitiuch Injury Law started the process on behalf of the parents and sisters of Duvel Hibbert, who was shot dead on the club's patio last Aug. 4 as an after-party for Drake's OVO Fest was winding down.
Police were called to the club on the Exhibition grounds when gunfire erupted around 3:20 a.m., sending patrons spilling out onto the fairgrounds and nearby streets. Some 4,000 people were at the party.
"The allegations are that the club had inadequate security," Smitiuch told CBC News on Wednesday evening.
"Quite simply, for the number of patrons and the size of the club, that the security was not enough, especially given the fact that there had been prior incidents, as we know, and they should have been on high alert."
The family is suing for compensation for the loss of their son and brother, Smitiuch said, as well as for punitive damages.
"They are struggling every day with the memory of what happened to their son," he said. "They're struggling to come to grips as to how this could happen and that's part of why they are coming forward. They want the club to be held accountable. Thus far they haven't been."
Ariela Navarro-Fenoy, 26, also died after she was shot just north of the club as the crowd spilled out onto Dufferin Street.
Her family is not part of the lawsuit, Smitiuch said.
'Additional surveillance' added to club
The statement of claim alleges that Muzik Clubs Inc. "failed to provide adequate security staff and police both inside and outside the club, given the number of patrons and size of the club."
It also alleges that Muzik failed to take proper security steps despite its history with violence and shootings.
The shootings marked the second year in a row gunfire marred the OVO Fest after-party, and occurred despite the presence of 70 security guards at the club, about 10 paid-duty officers outside and a number of on-duty police officers.
On Wednesday, a spokesperson for Muzik pointed to a previous statement from the club's lawyer, Michael I. Binetti, who would not comment on the lawsuit because he had yet to see the document.
The spokesperson, Karen Gruson, noted that the club has made $250,000 worth of security upgrades, "which include additional surveillance and camera systems."
The club has added nine walk-through metal detectors, as well as new security protocols, Gruson said.
Seventy security personnel and five police officers will be on hand for a party this Friday as part of the NBA All-Star Weekend festivities, she said.
Meanwhile, police have been looking for two persons of interest in connection with last summer's shootings but still don't have anyone in custody.
On Wednesday, Toronto police Staff Inspector Greg McLane said the investigation is ongoing.
"Some of these investigations where we're dealing with large numbers of individuals are very time consuming," McLane told CBC News. "It takes a lot of time to track people down, to interview people to find out what, if anything, they know. And then we have to obviously move forward on any clues or information that we do get."
McLane would not comment on the lawsuit, saying it is a matter between the victim's family and the club's owners.
The club is co-operating with the police investigation, he said.