According to a recent report in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the family of a young man killed by a waitress driving under the influence has filed a lawsuit against the Midtown Atlanta bar that employed her. Although the accident happened nearly two years ago, this suit bears an undeniable similarity to a lawsuit discussed last week by your Charleston personal injury lawyers. In that case, which is briefly updated toward the conclusion of this post, the decedent’s (or victim’s) father filed a wrongful death claim against the corporate owners of the restaurant that employed the drunk driver deemed responsible for the fatal car accident.
The lawsuit filed this week in Fulton State Court holds the Midtown Atlanta bar responsible for serving the waitress, among other employees, several free “shift shots” before allowing her to drive off the bar’s property around 4:00 a.m. on June 19, 2010. Moments after leaving work, the waitress, who was 26 years-old at the time, ran a red light at West Peachtree and 17th Streets and slammed into a Ford Mustang being driven by a 24-year-old intern for the then Governor of Georgia. The young man, a University of Georgia graduate from Augusta, was assigned to be a designated driver for other interns celebrating the end of a six-month government fellowship the night of the drunk driving accident.
According to prosecutors in the waitress’s criminal trial, her blood alcohol level was 0.229, just shy of three times the legal limit (0.08). In October 2011 the waitress pleaded guilty to driving under the influence (DUI) and wrongful death and was ordered to serve five years of 10-year prison sentence behind bars, serving the remainder on probation.
The civil suit, filed by the young intern’s parents, states the Midtown bar’s management is responsible in the wrongful death for their continued serving of alcohol to the waitress despite her being noticeably inebriated. Moreover, management knew “or should have known” that she would be leaving the premises intoxicated and driving her car. The lawsuit contends that the Midtown bar is liable “for damages equal to the full value [of the young man’s] life,” ands seeks $1 million in addition to legal, medical, and burial expenses.
Also this past week, the owner of the nationally acclaimed Husk restaurant has filed its formal response to a wrongful death lawsuit that arose from a fatal DUI accident in December 2011. The Neighborhood Dining Group, Inc., is seeking to dismiss the suit against them; claiming the Husk employee responsible for the Ravenel Bridge crash was not “acting within the course and scope of his employment while engaging in conduct that led to the accident in question.” To add another update, at the Dining Group’s request the wrongful death suit has been transferred to federal court in Charleston from state court, in part because the Group is a Georgia-based company.
Both of these tragic accidents certainly call into question an apparently common practice of bars and restaurants. The permitting of employees to not only drink for free at their place of work, but also knowingly allow them to hop into their cars and drive away under the influence of alcohol. The restaurant and bar culture that promotes alcohol consumption as some form of compensation needs to change. Especially considering that the two accidents discussed here abruptly brought an end to two young lives, dramatically and forever changed the trajectory of two others, and will be deeply felt by friends and family members long after the legal issues are resolved.