Jon Campisi Dec. 12, 2013, 8:22am


A judge has entered default judgment in excess of $380,000 against a man who allegedly caused teeth and neck injuries to a bar patron during an apparent sucker punch.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Thomas J. Rueter, of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, said he found in favor of plaintiff Joseph Ruggiero after defendant Torrance Amos, Jr., failed to plead or otherwise defend himself in the case.

Ruggiero filed suit against Amos and others in June of last year, after which the plaintiff moved for default judgment against Amos only in mid-November, the record shows.

A hearing was held on Ruggiero’s default judgment motion last month, and again Amos failed to be a part of the proceeding, according to Rueter’s memorandum, which was filed on Dec. 6.

Default judgment was then entered against Amos in the amount of $386,097, the record shows.

Ruggiero commenced his suit on Sept. 22, 2011, against Amos, as well as The Grog, a Bryn Mawr, Pa. tavern, and bar employees Douglas Shafer, Charles McHugh and Chand Patella.

Ruggiero had gone to The Grog with friends, but ended up leaving following an altercation with Shafer, the bouncer, according to court papers.

The altercation arose when an underage individual who was a member of the plaintiff’s party was denied entry into the establishment.

The complaint says that Shafer ended up pushing the plaintiff onto the pavement outside the bar, after which Shafer attempted to close the door, but was prevented from doing so by Ruggiero’s companions.

The lawsuit goes on to state that Shafer pushed Ruggiero a second time after Ruggiero tried to re-enter the bar and that Ruggiero also threw a punch at the bouncer.

There is a factual dispute in the record, however, with Ruggiero claiming that in addition to pushing him, Shafer punched the plaintiff in the face causing him to suffer teeth injuries.

Following the altercation, Ruggiero and his friends began to walk away, but when they got about a quarter of a block from the tavern, one in a group of individuals who had been following the plaintiff and his companions punched Ruggiero in the face “from behind,” causing the plaintiff to lose several teeth and sustain injuries to his cervical spine, the record shows.

Ruggiero does not allege that any other person hit him in the face that day besides Shafer and Amos.

In his lawsuit, Ruggiero seeks more than $75,000 in compensatory and punitive damages.

He claims he had to have several surgical procedures to fix his teeth and neck.

Ruggiero alleged that unpaid medical bills for services already rendered come to $1,097, while future medical care estimates come in somewhere between $80,000 and $90,000, the record shows.

The plaintiff also alleges that his injuries have impaired his employment prospects and have delayed his goal of obtaining a college degree.

In his memorandum, Rueter wrote that, “the court finds that plaintiff has sustained permanent injuries and suffered substantial pain and suffering resulting from the assault committed by defendant Amos.”

In addition to the $1,097 in past medical expenses, the judge awarded Ruggiero $85,000 for future medical care and $300,000 for pain and suffering.

The judge did not, however, award punitive damages to the plaintiff, “because the compensatory damage award is sufficient to punish defendant Amos and deter others from committing similar acts,” Rueter wrote.

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