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Jury: Nevada casino liable for gamblers hurt in biker brawl

A civil court jury finds Harrah's Laughlin liable for injuries suffered by bystanders when a deadly brawl broke out between rival biker gangs in 2002.  Damages hearing starts Friday.
Image: Motorcyclists drive past Harrah's casino
Motorcyclists drive past Harrah's hotel-casino in Laughlin, Nev., during the River Run motorcycle gathering Sunday, April 28, 2002. A shooting at the casino a day earlier left three dead and over a dozen injured.K.m. Cannon / AP file
/ Source: news services

A civil court jury has found Harrah's Laughlin liable for injuries suffered by bystanders when a deadly brawl broke out between rival biker gangs during a popular motorcycle rally in 2002 at the southern Nevada hotel-casino.

Las Vegas attorney Brent Bryson on Thursday told the Las Vegas Sun newspaper the same eight-person Clark County District Court jury that found for his clients late Wednesday is due to return Friday to begin determining the dollar amount of damages.

Bryson said Harrah's Laughlin officials knew trouble was brewing but did nothing to stop Hell's Angels and Mongols motorcycle gang members from clashing on the casino floor, the Sun reported. Three bikers died and several casino guests were injured.

There was no immediate word whether Harrah's would appeal.

The Sun said in five federal lawsuits and at least one California state lawsuit over the brawl, plaintiffs have lost against Harrah's.

Harrah's attorneys had argued the casino wasn't liable for the criminal acts of the bikers, including a "spontaneous and tragic biker gang brawl" just after 2 a.m. on April 27, 2002, as the melee was not foreseeable.

The brawl occurred during Laughlin's annual River Run event, attracting tens of thousands of motorcycle enthusiasts to the Colorado River gambling resort nearly 100 miles south of Las Vegas.

The plaintiffs said they got caught in the crossfire or were injured as gamblers stampeded out of the casino when the fight erupted.

Security footage presented to jurors during a 2006 Hell's Angels trial showed gamblers scattering and ducking for cover as shots were fired.

Shot to death in the first multiple murders on a Nevada casino floor were Hells Angels members Jeramie Bell, 27, and Robert Tumelty, 50. Stabbed to death was Mongols member Anthony Barrera, 43.

Six members of the Hells Angels were sent to prison in 2006; charges against 36 others were dismissed. Six members of the Mongols motorcycle club were sentenced in 2007.

Frederick Donahue, a Hells Angel from Rodeo, Calif., vanished after indictments were handed down following the 2002 melee. He surrendered in 2008 and was sentenced to 30 months in prison.

The next River Run is scheduled April 27 through May 1, 2011.

Billed as the largest ride-in motorcycle rally in the West, the River Run as attracted crowds topping 60,000, but were 40,000 in 2008, 33,600 in 2009, and 35,000 in 2010, according to the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority.