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Former stripper gets $100,000 in lawsuit -
Category: News
Former stripper gets $100,000 in lawsuit

A Jefferson County jury on Tuesday found in favor of a former stripper at The Furnace who claimed she was hurt in a 2007 wreck because the club failed to stop her from driving home after on-the-job drinking.

The jury awarded Patsy Hamaker of Bessemer compensatory damages of $100,000 and no punitive damages. The amount covers the cost of her outstanding hospital bills, but it falls short of the $1.2 million she sought.
"I am glad that a jury in Jefferson County found for Patsy," said Kirby Farris, one of Hamaker's attorneys. "I think that it does speak to our community's regard for safety."

Hamaker, whose stage name was Tessa, went to work at The Furnace on Oct. 17, 2007. She drank enough that night for her blood-alcohol content level to rise to nearly three times the legal limit, was pulled by security from one of the VIP rooms, and then left after at least three attempts to stop her, according to testimony during the trial. Her car wrecked on the interstate, and she suffered a broken nose and back. She says she can no longer dance because of her injuries, according to court documents.

Hamaker claimed wantonness, alleging she was hurt because the club recklessly disregarded its own safety rules. Those rules limited dancers to two alcoholic drinks a night. In addition, the club had policies on what to do when a dancer is drunk and unable to drive, which included keeping her in the building, taking her keys, and calling a friend or a taxi to pick her up, testimony showed.
But The Furnace said employees tried repeatedly to stop Hamaker from driving away that night and that it was Hamaker's choice to drink.
"Bottom line is she got herself drunk, had a terrible wreck and wants someone else to pay for it," said Davis Whittelsey, one of the club's attorneys.
The two sides disputed key facts during the trial, which lasted about four days. The Furnace maintained someone took Hamaker's car keys before the wreck, suggesting she relied on a spare set. But her attorneys said the club was not able to produce the keys nor anyone who would testify to taking them.
Other disputed issues were how Hamaker got drunk that night and whether the club encouraged dancers to drink. Hamaker's attorneys argued she drank alcohol furnished by the club, but The Furnace said Hamaker easily could have brought in outside alcohol -- as she testified to doing in the past. A waitress also said she reported Hamaker that night, after she saw her drink a Jagermeister shot a customer ordered and suspected the dancer downed additional shots.

The club's records show a customer bought Hamaker one "dancer drink," a commission drink or bottle ranging in price from $12 to $2,500. The club did not have a record of other drinks she may have had.
Hamaker, on the stand, said that promoting alcohol sales through dancer drinks was part of her job. "My boss was very adamant about me getting out there and making (drink) sales, for both him and myself," she said.
The No. 1 drink seller at The Furnace -- a dancer whose stage name is Seduction -- testified that it is not uncommon to see dancers drunk at the end of their shifts. But she said on the occasions when she drank too much, management told her to stay until she sobered up or she called a friend.
Attorneys for the Furnace pointed out that dancers can specify their preference for non-alcoholic or diluted dancer drinks. And the club's general manager, Jennifer Etheridge, testified that she does not want dancers getting intoxicated.


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