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Connecticut man sues Faneuil Hall bar, Boston firefighter who has been charged with slamming him to the ground last month

A Connecticut man who came up to Boston with his wife to celebrate his daughter's engagement remains in a bed at Mass. General, suffering from life-altering injuries he and police say he suffered when an off-duty firefighter enraged at somebody else slammed him to the pavement outside J.J. Donovan's Tavern, according to the suit he and his wife filed today against both the bar and the firefighter.

In their suit, filed in Suffolk Superior Court, Gary and Maribeth Steele say they were at the Clinton Street bar with their newly engaged daughter and other family members as Dec. 3 changed into Dec. 4 when a fight they had nothing to do with broke out inside the bar and then spilled outside. They say bar workers turned up the lights and ordered everybody outside - where, police charge, Robert Buckley, 43, of Plymouth, grabbed Gary Steele, 67, and hurled him down, opening up his forehead and leaving him with the neck injury that has kept him in the hospital.

According to a statement of claims filed with the suit, Steele has spent much of his time at Mass. General in the ICU, hooked up to a ventilator.

Buckley was arrested and charged with assault and battery on a person over 60 causing serious bodily damage, while BFD has suspended him from his job pending the outcome of his case.

The Steeles are seeking at least $7.5 million from the bar and Buckley for his "severe and permanent personal injuries" as well as "physical and mental pain and suffering, lost earning capacity and lost enjoyment of life."

They charge the bar shares part of the blame - and potential damages - it failed to "employ proper nightclub security techniques" and failed to take "reasonable steps" to ensure the safety of the Steeles and other patrons, including not forcing them outside into the middle of a brawl. The Boston Licensing Board, which holds quasi-judicial hearings on such matters, has yet to hold one on the Dec. 4 fight.

PDF icon Complete complaint148.27 KB


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Is the Licensing Board on sabbatical?

I understand it's a tough job. What with "working" part time, having to sometimes meet 3 times a week AT MOST, and raking in over $100k.

I get it, NOBODY needs that kind of stress.

But SIX WEEKS have gone by and they can't seem to get around to this Drunk Jake incident. While the victim lays in a hospital bed and the perp is cashing his checks and day drinking with the boyos.

Man, when I'm reincarnated I REALLY wanna come back as a relative/neighbor of a Boston City Employee.

Voting closed 45

One can only gue$$.

Voting closed 11

…because instead of just kicking out the people brawling, they kicked everyone out where it erupted even more and this poor guy was randomly body slammed. Had the bar de-escalated the situation before it led to blows (it can be hard to do so I sympathize there) or just sent the WWE wannabes on their way, he would’ve never been in the position to be injured.

Voting closed 100

He probably needs the money.

Voting closed 54

The incident happened in the wee hours of Dec. 4th and, according to the story, he is still in the hospital bed. 5 weeks and counting.

Voting closed 33

I don't see how the bar is at fault though, but perhaps there are more facts that aren't included. Either way, lawyers will always go for whoever has deep pockets, often a business and its insurer, who will frequently settle out of court.

Meanwhile, wouldn't it be great if universal healthcare was provided for everyone in this country, whether you're an innocent victim of violent crime or the innocent victim of cancer?

Voting closed 15

They cleared a bar into a brawl.

Repeat that a couple of times until it sinks in.

Voting closed 19

Thanks for clearing that up.

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This man has been in an ICU and is still in the hospital, racking up what's likely tens of thousands of dollars in medical bills. At 67, and with the level of severity of his injuries, it's likely he'll need continuing medical care for years if not for the rest of his life. He's lost out on wages, as have his family members, if he's been in the hospital in Boston and they're based in CT. It's possible he's lost his job entirely - if not formally, it's just a matter of time. And even healthy and hale 67 year olds struggle to obtain decent employment in this country. There's a reason Walmart is the biggest employer of senior citizens, and with his medical issues I doubt he's in a position to do that.

In certain countries, his medical care would be free or mostly free, and he could focus on getting well. In certain countries, he'd have a pension to fall back on, government programs that support the elderly and disabled, welfare to help pay bills and put food on the table. In the USA, he has none of that. Any rational person, when looking at the looming specter of life destroying debt and poverty and what it's like to be disabled in this country, is going to try and get a dollar from any entity they possibly can, even if the connection is tenuous.

Does the bar actually bear responsibility? Who knows, we weren't there and that'll come out in court. But it's very easy to cast moralizing judgement on a family that is essentially ruined through no fault of its own because there's no safety net in this country besides "sue anyone and everyone you can". If you find lawsuits like this to be distasteful, call your representatives and encourage them to actively discourage the need for them by, you know, not leaving people out to die in the cold when misfortune happens to them.

Voting closed 78

This man has been in an ICU and is still in the hospital, racking up what's likely tens of thousands of dollars in medical bills

I'd imagine that he racked up tens of thousands of dollars in medical bills during his first few minutes in the ER.

Voting closed 45

His situation helps keep bankruptcy court in business.

He will get bupkiss from the "firefighter." If the bar's owner is found at fault and their insurance companies pays (that's a long law suit right there) then the probability is that most is a million. Doubt if the insurance is higher.

However, our civil legal system is nearly broken. It is expensive when to sue no matter how much of a right a person has to sue. a person is harmed to get anything to help them. It is grossly cumbersome, favors whoever has the most money to "continue" case, is inefficient and in terms of providing justice is as good as the MBTA in providing transportation.

Add that magical distribution of fault. Assuming the bar's owner can be sued, they will not be faulted for the full amount of the plaintiff's pain and suffering. A % will be levied against the drunk (hopefully) ex-firefighter who will not have more than a slight fraction to pay for medical bills today and the future. But since that person probably has a minor amount of money in savings that will amount to pennies compared to what is needed.

In a situation like this the institutions that should surround him and support him today are designed to quicken him out of this world and to the next.

Voting closed 4

The bar forced the patrons outside into the middle of the fight. They did not give them the option to remain inside where -- wait for it -- there wasn't a fight going on. Do you seriously think that this 67 year old man walked outside of his own free will and got into it with some testosterone-poisoned firefighter?

Voting closed 55

That phrase got my attention, if you work all you life, plan for retirement hoping to travel, enjoy friends and family, and then some rando nit yanks it all away by hulking out on you? I'd sue anyone who was even remotely culpable.

Voting closed 65

is to sue everybody and then let the courts figure it out. I think he should take the fireman’s job, pension, 401K, house(s) and car.

Voting closed 58

My first thought was that this would be horrible for anyone but at 67 when you take a hit like that you do not recover. I have seen it happen. Even if he was in perfect health going into this , the body just not rebuild the same way.

If he does not go into a nursing home or assisted facility from the hospital he most likely will have to much earlier than expected. His wife will be impacted severely as well.

7.5 million sounds like a lot but when you add up all the bills it will be pushing several figures. Then factor in the fact that this poor guy went from being in good enough shape to being able to join family for a celebration in Boston to most likely always needing assistance of some sort to get around, assuming he can leave wherever he is. Then adding in the lost wages of all those around him offering support. Before you even get to the mental piece the price tag is already going way high.

If the bar had taken the proper steps to ensure his safety by not forcing everyone out he would have been safe. They clearly did this to avoid responsibility. They thought if everyone was outside then they would not be responsible for what happened out there.

I am with you. Sue the bar. Sue the marketplace. Sue the firefighter for a part of his pension and property.

Voting closed 32

The most he can recover is whatever insurance is available to pay if the bar is found to be at fault for any per centage of the harm.

Voting closed 3