A bar in North Carolina has been found liable for serving alcohol to a visibly drunk man, who then crashed into a family. David Huffman left Eddie’s Place Restaurant and Bar with a blood-alcohol level of 0.23—nearly three times the legal limit—and then crashed head-on into Matt and Meredith Eastridge’s SUV at 74 mph. Meredith Eastridge, 30, was six months pregnant; her uterus was ruptured and the fetus died.
The couple suffered other severe injuries; Meredith’s medical expenses reached $200,000 and Matt Eastridge’s injuries led to a massive infection, requiring $470,000 in medical care. The couple suffered extreme emotional distress over the death of their unborn son, and Meredith missed work, incurring about $25,000 in lost earnings.
Huffman was killed in the wreck; the Eastridges sued his estate, alleging he was reckless and negligent for driving while intoxicated. That claim was settled for $60,000, with the estate remaining in the case. The plaintiffs also sued Eddie’s Place, contending that its employees continued to serve Huffman alcohol after he was visibly intoxicated, in violation of North Carolina’s dram shop act. They presented evidence that Huffman drank fifteen alcoholic beverages in 2.25 hours at the bar. A videotape of Huffman at the bar, drinking with the manager, was also presented.
The restaurant argued the crash was Huffman’s fault alone; initially the defendant claimed to have served Huffman four drinks, but later admitted to having served him several more, saying the last two were just “top offs.” The restaurant also argued the bartender refused to serve Huffman after he appeared visibly intoxicated (toward the end of his visit), and that employees had set up a ride for Huffman, but he refused to take it.
The two sides entered into a high-low settlement agreement shortly before the verdict was announced. The jury found the restaurant liable under the dram shop act and awarded about $1.64 million in damages. Because the verdict was within the range of the high-low agreement, it will be paid in full.
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