Man sues the Hawk, employee over head injury received in bar fight

photo by: Nick Krug/Journal-World File Photo

In this file photo from Dec. 7, 2017, The Jayhawk Cafe — aka The Hawk — sits at the corner of 13th and Ohio streets.

A man who got hit over the head with a bottle at a Lawrence college bar known as the Hawk is suing the business and one of its employees over the incident.

Zachary Webb alleges in his lawsuit that an employee who was underage and drinking on the job hit him with the bottle and that other bar staff kicked him out, severely concussed, “disoriented and bleeding profusely.”

Webb is suing for unspecified damages, saying The Jayhawk Cafe, 1340 Ohio St., was negligent for failing to keep him safe and adequately train and supervise its employees. He’s also suing the employee for allegedly assaulting and battering him.

The altercation happened Jan. 17, 2017.

The Lawrence Police Department responded, though neither man was charged with a crime, or at least not one that rose to the level of being filed in Douglas County District Court, according to a search of court records.

Webb filed his civil suit in October 2017 in Douglas County District Court. The defendants have since filed responses, and there’s a case management conference scheduled for later this month.

The night he was hurt, Webb said, he was walking through the Hawk sometime after 10 p.m. — when the bar is supposed to be closed to everyone under 21 — when then-19-year-old employee Andrew Skaff approached him, burned him with a cigarette and exchanged words. Webb said he walked away but Skaff followed and began pushing him and asking him to fight.

When he declined, Skaff “suddenly and without warning” hit him on the head with a bottle, the lawsuit says.

Webb said he tried to get help from other Hawk staff but was escorted out and “shoved” away. He said Hawk staff failed to get him medical help or call police.

“Plaintiff was forced into the street where he wandered to the closest residence to obtain help,” the suit says. “Several hours passed before Plaintiff was taken to the hospital where he was treated for significant head injuries.”

Webb said in the suit that he suffered a crushed skull and severe concussion, leading to permanent scarring, hospital and other health-related expenses, loss of earnings, loss of tuition, “loss of enjoyment of life,” pain and suffering.

Skaff and the Hawk denied those allegations, saying in responses to the suit that although Skaff was an employee, he was not on duty at that time.

Also, Skaff said he acted in self-defense after Webb and several friends surrounded him, were “verbally aggressive” and threatened to hurt him, according to his response. Webb swung at Skaff but missed, and that’s when Skaff hit Webb.

“His reaction was reasonable,” Skaff’s attorney, Overland Park-based Jennifer Johnson, said in the response.

The Hawk specifically denied that its employees “forced” Webb into the street and added that police did respond.

“The incident was reported and investigated by local law enforcement who, upon information and belief, determined that no charges should be brought against Defendant Skaff or anyone else,” attorney Charles Schimmel wrote in the business’s response. Schimmel said any alleged damages sustained by Webb were beyond the bar’s control.

Webb’s attorney Maureen Brady, based in Kansas City, Mo., said she and her firm declined additional comment on the situation.

“We don’t discuss the specifics of a case while it is in pending litigation,” she said.

Schimmel and Johnson did not respond to messages from the Journal-World Friday afternoon.

Neither Webb nor Skaff is listed as a University of Kansas student now, according to the KU directory.

Schimmel had subpoenaed police reports, surveillance video and notes from the incident. However, the city has objected to turning those over because they’re confidential “criminal investigation records” and their release could also violate the privacy of individuals therein, the city said in its response to the subpoena.

Contact Journal-World public safety reporter Sara Shepherd


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