Montana Bar Responsible for Fatal DWI Wreck that Killed 24 Year Old?

The family of a Washington state man, who was killed by a Montana motorist who was later convicted of vehicular homicide while under the influence, has filed a lawsuit against the bar where the man was drinking before getting into this car.

The lawsuit alleges that the bar failed to use reasonable care when it served a visibly intoxicated man on November 9, 2010. Minutes after he left the bar at about 10:30 pm, he drove onto a sidewalk, killing a young man from Washington.

Approximately ten minutes after leaving the bar with a “to go cup” of a mixed whiskey drink, the lawsuit states, the intoxicated man crossed the center lane, where three men were walking, when he struck and killed the victim with his vehicle.

The victim was a 24-year-old tourist from Washington State who stopped with his two friends, while on their way to Yellowstone National Park. The three men were walking to dinner along the local street, when the intoxicated driver’s car drove onto the sidewalk.

The lawsuit seeks damages for personal injury including wrongful death, medical and burial costs and future economic loss.  The suit also seeks compensation for the loss of companionship and emotional distress. It also seeks monetary compensation for the “love, care, comfort and companionship” the victim provided his wife and son, “which would have continued had his untimely death not occurred.”

The driver was convicted of vehicular homicide in August 2011 while under the influence. The driver argued at his trial that neither the alcohol nor the drugs he had ingested impaired his driving. However, his blood alcohol level registered 0.10 following the crash, which is above the 0.08 level at which a person is considered legally drunk. He also admitted that he took a prescription painkiller, an Ambien and antidepressant in the hours leading up to the accident.

The owner of the bar said that surveillance footage shows that the driver was not visibly intoxicated when he left the bar, as the lawsuit argues.

Although the bar did provide a “to go cup,” the owner of the bar claims that it was intended for the driver’s wife, and was supposed to be consumed on the premises.

According to documents filed in court, the driver entered the bar at 6 pm on November 9, 2010 and ordered a pitcher of beer. For the next several hours, he drank beer and mixed alcoholic beverages, while taking Ambien, a sleeping pill.  He left the bar at 10:30 pm, in his Ford Focus, with his wife.

Minutes later, the victim began walking with his two friends. He was hit on the sidewalk. The impact threw the victim into a stone wall of a business. He was pronounced dead at the hospital.

The driver was convicted in 2011 of vehicular homicide while under the influence. He was sentenced to 30 years in prison, with half of that suspended. He remains free while he appeals his conviction to the Montana Supreme Court. The driver went out to the bar for more than four hours to drink, leaving behind a wife and young son.

“At the time of his death, the victim was only 24 years old and was young and vigorous, the lawsuit states. He was employed, was industrious and hard working.”

Do you feel that the bar that served the alcohol to the driver is negligent in the death of this innocent man?  The driver of the car not only had a blood alcohol level above the legal limit, but he had painkillers and sleeping pills in this body, as well.  Do you think that his sentence was fair?  Feel free to comment on this blog post.  Contact one of our Gacovino Lake attorneys at 1-800-246-HURT (4878).

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