Aerialist example. Photo via Pixabay.

An aerialist hurt during a performance at the Playhouse Nightclub in Hollywood in 2018 won a split-court ruling Thursday when a judge denied a motion to dismiss two defendants from her lawsuit, but did strike her claim for punitive damages against the pair of firms.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Frederick C. Shaller issued his ruling in the case brought by plaintiff Adele Vannini, who was at the club on June 14, 2018, to perform a “bottle drop” as part of the evening’s entertainment.

However, as Vannini was released from the platform during her second rehearsal, the equipment failed and she plummeted 35 feet to the concrete floor below, breaking a shoulder, wrist, elbow, hip, knee and her nose, the suit states.

Vannini brought her suit in August 2018 against the club and the establishment’s general partner/managing member Robert Vinokur. She later amended the suit in June 2020 to add Unite Worldwide Enterprises and Aerial Arts America as defendants, maintaining that she did not learn until a month earlier of their alleged involvement with the manufacturing of the rig until the device was inspected.

Vannini alleges strict liability, design defect and failure to warn against both companies.

“Here, the court finds that the (amended complaint) has sufficiently alleged that (the companies) manufactured, distributed and installed the subject rig,” Shaller wrote.

Although the two firms maintained that Vannini failed to allege sufficient details, they did not “cite to any legal authority to support this proposition,” Shaller wrote.

In dismissing the punitive damages claim against the companies, the judge said there were no facts presented by Vannini showing “malice, oppression or fraud” on the part of the firms or that any managing agent, officer or director of the companies authorized or ratified any wrongful conduct, a legal requirement when seeking corporate punitive damages.

Vannini underwent 12 hours of surgery at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, had two additional surgeries that lasted a total of 11 hours and was hospitalized for 17 days, the suit states.

In a sworn declaration, Vinokur said Vannini she signed a release of liability prior to her rehearsals.

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