Gatto family to sue city of Statesboro for more than $11 million

Matthew Enfinger

When asked how her family was doing, Katherine Gatto, mother of Michael Joseph Gatto, replied, “That’s a hard question to answer…It’s a struggle everyday. I think about him and I miss him everyday. We’re continuing on and trying our best to continue on.”

Michael Gatto was a freshman here at Georgia Southern University when he died on August 28, 2014 after being assaulted at Rude Rudy’s, a former Statesboro bar.

Grant Spencer, at the time a GS student and a bouncer at Rude Rudy’s, was sentenced to 20 years in prison for the voluntary manslaughter of Gatto.

After Michael Gatto’s death, the State of Georgia enacted Michael’s Law, which prohibits anyone under the age of 21 from entering any bar in the state.

Michael and Katherine Gatto, the parents of Michael Joseph Gatto, are currently suing the City of Statesboro and City Clerk Sue Starling for the death of their son, according to courthouse documents.

The Gatto family is suing under the following counts:

Count 1: Negligence- Ministerial Breach and Failure to Supervise

  • for failure to supervise Clerk Starling regarding the duty to set administrative hearing before the City Council for underage drinking violations of the law that occurred on or about March 22, 2013 and March 28, 2013 at Rude Rudy’s and for Starling’s failure to set due process hearings upon her notice of the violations at Rude Rudy’s.

Count 2: Nuisance

  • for Statesboro and Starlings’ acts in allowing Rude Rudy’s to remain open by not revoking its alcohol license and/or business license therefore creating a hazardous and dangerous condition at Rudy’s.

Count 3: Nuisance Created by Defendant: Statesboro’s Changes to the Alcohol ordinance:

  • allowed underage individuals with a criminal record to be employed as bouncers at establishments holding a alcohol license and removed accountability.
  • removed any accountability for establishments to comply with required 50/50 ratio of food to alcohol sales.
  • removed any substantive penalty from being implemented against businesses for sale of alcohol to underage patrons.
  • created a dangerous environment at establishments in Statesboro by encouraging the sale of alcohol to underage college students.

Count 4: Punitive Damages

  • for demonstrating a disregard for the life and safety of citizens

Count 5: Expenses of Litigation

  • for the cost of legal action

“There are plenty of bars out there that knowingly serve minors and do it and profit from it and are enabled by local governments,” Katherine Gatto said.

The specific amount of monetary damages being sought by the Gatto family include:

  • Final medical and burial expenses: $163,801.06
  • Conscious pain and suffering: $1 million
  • Wrongful Death damages: $10 million

Although Katherine Gatto could not speak about the City of Statesboro lawsuit, she said, “I just hope no family has to deal with what we’re dealing with.”

Unless extended by order of the Court, discovery in this case will end on May 23, 2017.

The anticipated date that this case will be tried before a jury is July 2017. An extension will be granted only for good cause shown.