Interviews scheduled in Huddle House assault lawsuit

 Amanda Meadows checks paperwork during a hearing Thursday before Judge Lee Howard in Clay County Circuit Court. She and David Owen, both Columbus attorneys, are part of the team representing Ralph Weems IV and David Knighten in their lawsuit.
Staff Writer

Almost three years after the lawsuit was filed, depositions finally are about to begin in a lawsuit stemming from a brutal beating outside the Huddle House in West Point.

According to Clay County Circuit Court records, attorneys for Huddle House have scheduled April 5 interviews with David Knighten, one of the victims in the Aug. 23, 2014 assault, and Christina Stark, who was with Knighten and Ralph Weems IV, when the assault occurred.

And lawyers for Knighten and Weems hope to interview Annie Avant, the hired security guard on duty at the time, sometime in late April, attorney David Owens, who is part of the legal team representing Weems and Knighten, said during a Circuit Court hearing Thursday.

On May 11, 2015, Weems and Knighten sued Litco Petroleum, which owns the West Point Huddle House, the parent corporation, Avant and others, claiming they should be found liable for the men's injuries and long-term medical expenses. The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages.

Ralph Weems III, the conservator of his son's estate, filed the lawsuit on his son's behalf.

The case is scheduled for trial on Feb. 4, 2019.

Weems suffered the most severe traumatic brain injuries and was in a coma for weeks after being punched, kicked and stomped in the restaurant's parking lot. He will require treatment and assistance for years.

Knighten also suffered serious injuries and also will have medical issues for years to come, the lawsuit claims.

Weems, Knighten and Stark went into the restaurant at about 1:50 a.m. and while Weems and Stark were in a booth and Knighten was in the bathroom, a confrontation started with another group.

At some point, Weems and Knighten were punched.

Restaurant employees and Avant, who was contracted for security, told both groups to "take it outside."

That's where the serious assault occurred, the lawsuit says.

It alleges Avant, who remains a Clay County Sheriff's DepartmentĀ  jailer and an auxiliary West Point Police officer, was negligent for not intervening more forcefully and for not calling law enforcement.

Weems and Knighten argue the restaurant failed to properly train its staff and hire effective security.

Huddle House and Avant have denied any wrong doing.

During a hearing Thursday, Owen asked Judge Lee Howard to order Avant and her attorney, Roberta Haughton, of West Point, to respond to Owen's request for documents and responses to questions.

"We've gotten several versions of her account...we've got to have this information," Owen said.

Haughton responded that she is trying to protect her client's interests and still is assessing her response.

The judge suggested Owen ask her the questions during depositions and then come back to the court if she doesn't cooperate.