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Women detained by Whiskey Tango bouncers over fake $50 bill settle for $1M

Two sisters who were falsely imprisoned by bouncers who accused them of using counterfeit money at the Whiskey Tango bar in Grain Valley have settled their suit against the bar for $1 million.

Their attorney, Nicholas Hinrichs, of the Hinrichs Law Firm in Kansas City, said the negligent-training and false-imprisonment suit settled May 24.

Mariel F. Bergantine of Blue Springs, and her sister, Audrey T. Anderson, each will receive $500,000 as a result of the settlement. The total amount reflects the limit of the bar’s insurance policy.

Hinrichs said he believes the settlement occurred because the actions of bar employees were so appalling.

“I think that no matter how you shake it, when you tell what happened, people are just in shock of the behavior, of what the bouncers did,” he said.

In August 2017, the women filed suit against E.I.E., L.L.C., a company doing business as Whiskey Tango, a country bar and music venue.

The suit also listed several bar employees as defendants: Shawn Brown, the bar general manager; Harley Akin, the bouncers’ supervisor; and bouncers Michael Malick, Cody Atchely and Frederick Failing.

Their suit stems from an incident in November 2016 at the bar.

According to Hinrichs, a bartender working at a beer station unknowingly received a fake $50 bill at about 11:30 p.m. on Nov. 12 from a female patron. An employee discovered the fake bill at about 2:45 a.m. on Nov. 13 and asked a bouncer to find the person who paid with it.

Meanwhile, Bergantine, then 31, and Anderson, then 29, were about to leave the bar, where they’d been since 1:30 a.m. with friends and family.

Hinrichs said several bouncers stopped them in the parking lot as they approached their friend’s vehicle. The bouncers told the sisters that they were suspected of passing the fake bill but did not say why.

The sisters denied the allegation but followed the bouncers back into the bar, where Akin met them and again accused them of using the counterfeit bill. They again denied the accusation and tried to leave before Akin allegedly grabbed and pushed Anderson into a chair and handcuffed her to the wall, Hinrichs said.

Bergantine fled from the bar, and Akin instructed several bouncers to bring her back, Hinrichs said. She tried to locate her friends’ parked vehicle but discovered they had left, so she ran off the property and into the woods, where several bouncers followed her.

Eventually the bouncers returned to the bar after losing track of her. Hinrichs said Akin instructed them to grab zip ties and flashlights, and he and the bouncers left in the bar security truck to look for Bergantine in the woods.

They found her at a Conoco gas station, more than a mile away from the bar. The women alleged the bar staff zip-tied Bergantine and placed her in the back of the security truck before returning to the bar, where they handcuffed her next to her sister. Police eventually arrived and freed the women, who were not charged in connection with the counterfeit bill.

The sisters were taken to a hospital. They have been diagnosed and treated for post-traumatic stress disorder. In their lawsuit, they allege they suffered emotional distress and soft-tissue injuries as a result of the bar employees’ actions.

Hinrichs said the bouncers were following the orders of their supervisor and were not trained in how to handle such a situation.

“They were under the misguided impression that if someone committed a crime in the bar they could do whatever it takes to bring that person back to the bar,” he said. “That is incredibly scary.”

Three of the defendants also face criminal charges in connection with the incident.

Akin was charged with felonious restraint. His trial is set for October.

Malick and Failing both were charged with false imprisonment, a misdemeanor offense. They recently entered guilty pleas in their cases; both received a suspended imposition of sentence and two years of probation.

Hinrichs said the bar has revamped its training following the suit, a goal of the litigation.

$1 million settlement

Women detained by bar bouncers over fake $50 bill settle for $1M

False Imprisonment

Breakdown: $500,000 for Bergantine, $500,000 for Anderson

Injuries alleged: Emotional distress, soft-tissue injuries

Venue: Jackson County Circuit Court

Case Number/Date: 1716-cv19689/May 24, 2018

Judge: Jack Grate

Plaintiff’s Experts: Jeremy Burd, Westwood, Kansas (Psychiatrist)

Special Damages: $4,620 for Bergantine, $14,420 for Anderson

Insurer: Confidential

Caption: Mariel F. Bergantine and Audrey T. Anderson v. E.I.E. L.L.C., doing business as Whiskey Tango; Shawn Brown, Harley Jon Wayne Akin, Michael Anthony Malick, Cody Reese Atchely and Frederick R. Failing

Plaintiff’s Attorneys: Nicholas Hinrichs, Hinrichs Law Firm, Kansas City; Tim Becker and Tim E. Dollar, Dollar, Burns & Becker

Defendant’s Attorneys: Confidential