The family of the late jazz pianist/composer Hilton Ruiz, who died June 6th from injuries he sustained in mid-May, is suing Utopia, a New Orleans nightclub. They claim Ruiz was attacked and beaten at the venue and security staff did nothing to help him.
“We are very confident there are people out there who are aware of what happened to Mr. Ruiz in that club in the early hours of May 19th,” attorney Scott Galante said. “We are urging people and pleading with people to come forward to my office or the New Orleans Police Department with their information.”
Utopia manager Fred Woodruff denied the allegation, saying, “We have no knowledge of that whatsoever.”
Woodruff added that he hadn’t reviewed the club’s security tapes and police hadn’t asked for them.
The lawsuit, filed in the city’s Civil District Court on behalf of ex-wife Aida Ruiz and her daughter, also named Aida, claims Ruiz had been at the club for several hours when he was attacked by several people.
Security staff allegedly “failed to intervene in any meaningful fashion,” or to call an ambulance. The suit further claims security either escorted or threw Ruiz out of the club and left him alone even though he clearly wasn’t able to help himself.
The 54-year-old New Jersey resident, who was in New Orleans to film a companion video for a Hurricane Katrina benefit album, was hospitalized after falling near the Bourbon Street club. Ruiz lapsed into a coma and never regained consciousness.
Police initially investigated the entertainer’s injuries to his head and face as an assault but later determined through evidence and eyewitness accounts Ruiz was hurt accidentally.