Suit against national restaurant chain results in significant settlement for victims of drunk driving accident

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Vernon Glenn, of Counsel to Clore Law Group and Allman Spry Leggett & Crumpler of Winston-Salem, N.C., recently worked to obtain a significant settlement for a man who was injured by a drunk driver, along with his wife, after the driver left a restaurant intoxicated. Glenn spearheaded filing the suit and was instrumental in obtaining critical evidence that resulted in a successful settlement. The attorneys showed that, in addition to the drunk driver, who was declared dead at the scene of the accident, the restaurant that served the driver was also responsible for the accident. The prevailing counsel showed that immediately prior to getting behind the wheel, the driver spent over four hours in the national chain restaurant, eating with her boyfriend, drinking alcohol during the meal, and then heading to the bar area where she continued to consume alcohol. Receipts showed she had at least four glasses of wine and several double gin drinks over the four hour period. The driver had a blood alcohol content that was estimated to be .24, or three times the legal limit, at the time of the accident. Nationally-adopted restaurant policies and the law state that a restaurant should not serve alcohol to a customer who appears to be intoxicated or if the amount they've consumed indicates they are likely intoxicated. In addition to receipts, her cell phone was also recovered, which helped develop additional leads in the case. Further evidence revealed that the deceased and her boyfriend were regulars at the bar and that they were treated courteously by the staff. Interviews conducted with various parties indicated that she and her boyfriend were heavy drinkers. The restaurant fired the bartender a few days after the crash for serving too much alcohol to another regular patron of the bar but never undertook any internal review of this particular incident. The injured man was 41-years-old at the time of the injury, married with a child, and employed. He also worked as the volunteer fire chief for his rural community, a role in which he can no longer serve. At the time of the accident, the victim was on his way home. He later reported that he saw the driver's car coming toward him, run off the road, over-correct, and then hit him head-on. Responders had to use the Jaws of Life to remove him from the vehicle. Once removed, he was flown by helicopter to a major trauma center. During the accident, he was critically injured, suffering a crushed ankle and lower leg, a shattered wrist, cracked vertebrae, a broken femur about his knee cap, a lacerated liver and kidney, and numerous other injuries. He incurred nearly $400,000 in medical bills during and after a seven-week hospital stay. He was left with significant disabilities, steel rods and pins in his leg and hand, and has been restricted to part-time sedentary work, causing a change in vocations. The experts brought in for this case estimated that the significant life-time loss of earnings and the cost of future care supported the need for compensation for the victim beyond his initial medical expenses. It was also shown that, although not injured physically, the injured man's wife had suffered significantly, and the accident has affected their entire family, so she received a settlement as well. In order to prove the negligence of the restaurant and the extent of the injuries, the attorneys assembled a strong panel of expert witnesses. The formidable expert witnesses brought in to testify for the plaintiff proved to be key factors in the early and favorable settlement of the case. They included the trauma surgeon who observed the injuries at the time of the accident; a nationally recognized forensic toxicologist who calculated the blood alcohol content (BAC) of the deceased driver; a vocational rehabilitation specialist who testified about the long-term impact of the injuries; an economist who specializes in determining economic losses to injured parties; and an expert that helped formulate the rules and procedures that restaurants use to guide them in serving alcohol. The suit was filed quickly to create early access to information as required by the Rules of Civil Procedure. After only two depositions were taken, the parties agreed to go into mediation. This move prevented the victim the further trauma of a lengthy trial and resulted in a quick, confidential settlement in excess of $1 million for the injured man and his wife.

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