The family of a man who was killed in a head-on collision will receive a $1.3 million settlement, most of it from the drinking establishment which served alcohol to the driver that struck the victim’s vehicle, the family’s attorney reports.
Shawn Howard and KarlGwaltneyof Maginnis Howard in Raleigh and Andrew Cioffi of Raleigh represented the survivors of a Charlotte man, whose name was withheld pursuant to a confidentiality agreement. The man was transporting his elderly mother from Michigan when a drunk driver traveling the wrong way on Interstate 77 hit their car near Statesville.
Both drivers were killed in the accident. The mother survived with significant injuries.
“The family was devastated,” Howard said. “It took them awhile to even think about hiring counsel to pursue the case. When they eventually did, it had been almost a year, and so the trail was cold in a way.”
Howard said the matter entailed a significant amount of investigative work, not just due to the time delay but also because of the death of individual liable in the accident.
“When that happens, it becomes very, very difficult for us to find out where they were,” Howard said.
Neither phone records nor credit card transactions turned up any evidence of the other driver’s activities. Ultimately, the investigation unearthed information from a co-worker that showed where she had been before the crash, and the attorneys learned that she had apparently consumed seven vodka drinks at a local establishment over the course of two hours and had a .19 blood alcohol level. Howard said the plaintiff’s expert opined that the high BAC indicated that the drinks were likely stronger than normal.
The settlement included $1 million from the bar and $300,000 from the insurer for the at-fault driver.
Howard said he believed the case would have been well-received by a jury had it gone to trial.
“I think it would have been a substantial verdict,” Howard said. “I think giving somebody that many alcoholic drinks when they are sitting in a bar by themselves and watching them walk out with keys in their hand is a pretty dangerous thing to do.”
SETTLEMENT REPORT – DRAM SHOP
Amount: $1.3 million
Injuries alleged: Death (bilateral ankle fractures for surviving passenger)
Case name: Confidential
Date of settlement: August 2021
Most helpful experts: Randy Durnal of Tucson, Arizona (service of alcohol) and David Eagerton of Buies Creek (toxicologist)
Attorneys for plaintiff: T. Shawn Howard and Karl Gwaltney of Maginnis Howard in Raleigh and Andrew Cioffi of Raleigh
Attorneys for defendants: Confidential