The parents of a 23-year-old woman who was killed after being struck by a “monster truck” in a “gentleman’s club” parking lot were awarded $10.5 million.
The civil verdict was returned against the driver and the club for serving the driver alcohol, in favor of Gary McKenzie and Karen McDonald, the parents of Kasey McKenzie. McKenzie’s parents sued Crutchfield, the driver, and High Expectations Hospitality, the corporate name for Spearmint Rhino, pointing to state “dram shop” laws. Under what is called the “dram shop” doctrine, restaurants, bars or liquor stores can be held liable if they serve alcohol to customers who are clearly drunk and end up causing harm to others.
Kasey McKenzie, 23, of Granbury, Texas, died on March 17, 2011 after she was crushed under a pickup truck that was elevated on “monster” tires. The driver of the pickup truck, Eric Brent Crutchfield, was legally intoxicated.
It was alleged that the club served Crutchfield 10 or more drinks and shots on the night of McKenzie’s death. He arrived at the club at about 10 p.m. and was served drinks for about four hours.
A Dallas civil jury awarded $4 million to the parents for mental anguish and $3.5 million for loss of companionship, along with about $3 million in other damages and expenses.
CBS Station KTVT reported that McKenzie was talking to someone in the parking lot of the Spearmint Rhino club at 2 a.m. when she was struck by the monster truck’s huge over sized wheels.
Melinda Gutierrez of the Dallas Police Department reported that when the truck began driving away, several witnesses ran the truck down to stop the driver, who claimed he did not see the woman because his truck is so high off the ground. He was jailed on charged of intoxication manslaughter and driving with a suspended license.
According to the police report, Crutchfield “had no idea he had run over” McKenzie. A blood test after the incident showed his blood-alcohol level was 0.18 percent, more than twice the legal limit.
Crutchfield was driving a Ford F-250 pickup that had been modified with a lift kit to elevate the body several feet above the ground. Police later determined that some of the modifications to the truck were actually illegal and that the truck should not have been on the road.
Kasey McKenzie died at the scene from injuries she sustained.
The verdict against the club came in a trial of a civil suit alleging the employees of the Spearmint Rhino club continued to sell Crutchfield alcohol over a period of three or four hours, “even though it was or should have been apparent…that Crutchfield was intoxicated to the extent that he presented a clear danger to himself and others.”
The jurors were shown surveillance video of Crutchfield drinking inside the club the night of the accident. Reportedly, it was apparent to the bartender and the club that Crutchfield was intoxicated. Yet, he got behind the wheel of his monster truck and crushed Kasey McKenzie to her death.
Crutchfield, who was 27 years old at the time of McKenzie’s death, pleaded guilty last May to a charge of manslaughter and received a three-year prison sentence. In addition, he had been on probation since 2007 for possession of steroids, and after he killed McKenzie, the judge in the steroids case revoked his probation and sent him to prison for that conviction, as well. It is projected that Crutchfield will be released from prison in 2015, according to state prison records.
It was reported that the jury found that Crutchfield was 30 percent to blame and the Spearmint Rhino club 70 percent responsible.
Spearmint Rhino did not immediately return a message seeking comment.
Do you think the club who serves the alcohol to patrons should be held accountable? According to the dram shop doctrine, bars can be held liable if they serve alcohol to customers who are clearly drunk.
Feel free to comment on this blog post. Contact one of our Gacovino Lake attorneys at 1-800-246-HURT (4878).