Crime & Courts

Lawsuit: Guards at Columbia sports bar let car run over, kill unconscious customer

Security guards at the Mi Casita Sports Bar in Columbia placed an unconscious man in the way of a car driven by a drunk bar customer, who then ran over and killed him, a new lawsuit alleges.

The wrongful death lawsuit filed this week in Richland County state civil court charges that the October 2017 death of Troy Anderson, 49, was avoidable and happened only because of the bar’s “negligent security resumes.”

Anderson died 12 days after the incident from “massive trauma” to the head, torso and extremities, according to the Richland County Coroner’s Office.

Efforts to reach a spokesman for Mi Casita, which means “my little house” in Spanish, were unsuccessful Thursday.

The alleged drunk bar customer who ran over Anderson was 24-year-old Columbia resident Latonya Watson, records say. She was arrested about two weeks after Anderson’s death by the Richland County Sheriff’s Department and charged with murder and leaving the scene of a deadly accident. She is currently jailed at the Alvin S. Glenn Detention Center. She has not been released on bond.

Watson’s lawyer, Justin Kata, had no immediate comment on the lawsuit Thursday. Watson is not named in the lawsuit, but she would be a potential witness in any civil trial.

The lawsuit alleges on Oct. 5, 2017, Anderson was a customer at the bar when “he was negligently detained, handled and engaged by the security team causing him to become unconscious and placing him in harm’s way.”

At about the same time — 3 a.m., according to the sheriff’s department — a “visibly intoxicated” patron of Mi Casita left the bar and proceeded to get in her car, the lawsuit charged.

Mi Casita employees had continued selling alcoholic drinks to the person “despite her increasing intoxication” and even though bar employees knew “the patron would be driving an automobile with her faculties and judgment grossly and dangerously impaired,” the lawsuit said.

“The patron was unable to operate her vehicle safely and ... thus ran over the unconscious body of (Anderson),” the lawsuit said.

The lawsuit, filed by Columbia attorney Wayne Ridgeway, alleges Mi Casita broke the law by continuing to sell alcohol to a drunken person, failing to provide an alternative means of transportation and in failing to train employees to recognize signs of intoxication and to sell alcohol more responsibly.

The lawsuit asked for actual and punitive damages but did not specify an amount.

Mi Casita has been in the news twice over the past year.

In May 2018, Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott accused the business of unlawfully operating as a strip club. In a press conference that month, Lott said “there have been fights, shots fired and even a murder” at Mi Casita.

In January, a man who had been shot multiple times was found in Mi Casita’s parking lot, the sheriff’s department said. He was transported to a local hospital and apparently survived.

John Monk has covered courts, crime, politics, public corruption, the environment and other issues in the Carolinas for more than 40 years. A U.S. Army veteran who covered the 1989 American invasion of Panama, Monk is a former Washington correspondent for The Charlotte Observer. He has covered numerous death penalty trials, including that of the Charleston church killer, Dylann Roof, and that of child killer Tim Jones.