Ear-biting barroom brawl leads to suit

Steve Gonzalez Sep. 8, 2005, 7:27am

A girlfriend's cigarette-burned sweater was the fuse that ignited a Collinsville barroom brawl and led the bouncer to bite a patron in the ear.

And now, brothers Jason and John Coppotelli--who were involved in the fracas two years ago at L.J. Ducks Sports Bar and Grill in Collinsville--filed suit against the tavern and its bouncer Brian Allen Smith in Madison County Circuit Court Aug. 31.

Jason Coppotelli claims that Smith’s wife, Heather, left a burn on his girlfriend's sweater on the night of Sept. 20, 2003. He asked her what she was going to do about it.

According to the complaint, at that time "someone" stood up and deliberately bumped into Coppotelli’s girlfriend. Coppotelli then got up and started to walk toward the bouncer to "avert" trouble.

Coppotelli claims as he was walking away, Heather Smith, who was seated with one of the bar owners, began berating him and told him to, “Get the hell out of the bar.”

According to Coppotell, as he turned and started to walk back to his table, Smith, the bouncer, jumped him from behind and began assaulting, battering and striking his head, face and body with his fists.

At that time, Jason Coppotelli’s brother, James, tried to stop Smith from hitting his brother when he was allegedly was bitten on the ear by Smith.

Jason Coppotelli claims he was bruised and sustained blunt trauma to his head and body which required hospitalization, experienced pain and suffering, lost wages and became liable for medical expenses.

James Coppotelli claims similar damages.

In the suit seeking compensatory and punitive damages, the brothers also claim that L.J. Ducks was reckless in employing Smith as a bouncer because he was unfit to serve in that capacity.

They allege that the bar knew that Smith had previously behaved violently toward other patrons and was prone to violent outbursts.

According to court records, Smith has been previously charged in numerous misdemeanor and felony cases, and currently is awaiting a Sept. 20 trial for aggravated battery. It could result in revocation of his probation for a previous conviction.

The Coppotellis are each seeking compensatory damages in excess of $30,000 from Smith and seeking at least $30,000 in compensatory damages from L.J. Ducks plus punitive damages in excess of $100,000.

The brothers are represented by John Raffaelle of Collinsville.

The case has been assigned to Circuit Judge George Moran.

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