Delaware: “Man sues pizzeria for thwarting robbery”

by Walter Olson on July 24, 2014

Nigel Sykes, currently serving a 15-year sentence, is suing employees of Seasons Pizza in Newport, Del. who allegedly tackled him as he was robbing the pizzeria at gunpoint. His suit, filed without a lawyer, asks in excess of $260,000, saying employees of the dining establishment beat him up and poured hot soup on him. “While U.S. District Judge Sue L. Robinson tossed out several of Sykes’ claims, she allowed the case to move forward against the pizza employees, two arresting officers and Seasons.” Sykes, whom police linked to a series of robberies at a bank and various retail establishments, had filed an earlier suit with different factual allegations which was dismissed on procedural grounds. He has also claimed that he should be allowed to take back his plea in the criminal case, arguing in a motion, “I’m not good at making good choices.” [Sean O'Sullivan, Wilmington News Journal]

{ 8 comments }

1 Hugo S. Cunningham 07.24.14 at 12:05 pm

If this case went to trial, and a weird jury found in favor of this thug, could a restaurant manager fire one of the jurors? In numerous discussions of inflammatory cases like this, I have heard nothing about juror rights, vs management and co-worker rights.

2 Hugo S. Cunningham 07.24.14 at 12:18 pm

Lawsuits like this should constitute proof of “lack of remorse,” barring the convict from consideration for parole.

3 Richard Nieporent 07.24.14 at 12:59 pm

While U.S. District Judge Sue L. Robinson tossed out several of Sykes’ claims, she allowed the case to move forward against the pizza employees, two arresting officers and Seasons.

I am sure that she also waived the filing fee for this indigent criminal. After all everyone must be allowed his day in court. Why does this judge allow this criminal to use the legal system to harass these people?

4 ras 07.24.14 at 5:14 pm

The crime was “failure to be helpless.” It should be codified already.

5 gitarcarver 07.24.14 at 6:12 pm

(I can’t believe I am going to say this….)

This might be a “Ron Miller Special.” Ron always likes to remind us that there are facts we may not know and this case may fit that. For example, the judge dismissed part of the lawsuit but not all, leaving me to wonder what parts she dismissed and what parts she left in tact.

(Yeah, I know that this whole thing is a mess and never should happen, but I am being overly open minded here.)

One thing I did note was that at 1:14 of the video at the linked site, Sykes is standing outside of the pizzeria and does not look the worse for wear for someone who has allegedly been hit with fists and kicked in the face and other parts of his body as well as being tazed.

6 kimsch 07.25.14 at 12:03 am

I remember a story about a perp who got away and lost in the woods in Maine in the winter. He then either got back to civilization, or was finally found, but had frostbite and hypothermia. He sued the police for not finding him fast enough.

7 jimc5499 07.25.14 at 8:37 am

One question needs to be asked here. If during this robbery, this guy would have been shot and killed, would anyone have been charged? if the answer is “no”, case dismissed.

8 Chip 07.25.14 at 11:08 am

This happened in my sister’s hometown and she asked me if this guy had a case. Curious, I read his pleadings and the court’s orders (which are publicly available via PACER).

Unsurprisingly, the headline in the news article is incorrect. Sykes did not sue the pizzeria and its employees for thwarting his attempted robbery (which would, of course, be silly). Rather, he claimed that they assaulted him after they had already successfully thwarted his robbery and had him fully subdued.

Judge Robinson held, correctly I think, that this was sufficient to state a claim (she also dismissed his claims against several municipal and state actors).

That said, I would be stunned if this case made it to trial (as I suspect there will be a healthy and successful dispositive motion practice), and I would be even more shocked were a jury to award Sykes damages.

But if what he alleges is true (i.e., that he was fully subdued before the assault began and was repeatedly assaulted thereafter including while he was unconscious), he may very well have been assaulted within the meaning of a civil tort for assault.

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