A police officer and the bar that served her alcohol have agreed to pay a total of $2.255 million – the limit of their insurance policies – to compensate the families of four young people killed and one man injured in a traffic crash in Des Peres, Missouri. A wrongful-death lawsuit, brought by the dead victims’ families and the survivor, alleged that the female officer, who was off duty at the time, drank “a high quantity” of alcohol at O’Leary’s Restaurant & Bar, and then drove her car into oncoming traffic. The officer is awaiting a criminal trial on manslaughter charges.
The suit said the officer was at fault based on allegations of driving drunk and driving on the wrong side of the road, among other things. Her blood-alcohol content, according to the investigating officers, was 0.169% three hours after the crash. The threshold for drunk driving in the state is 0.08%. The parents also sued the restaurant because it’s “employees knew” the officer “was intoxicated” and failed to stop her from driving or call her a cab, according to the lawsuit. Interestingly, the restaurant is in a strip mall about 1,000 feet from the Sunset Hills police station. The suit alleges bar workers served the officer alcohol despite her slurred speech and unsteady gait.
Under the state’s dram shop law, a bar or restaurant can be held liable for injury or death caused later by an inebriated patron. Dram shop suits carry the highest burden of proof for the Plaintiffs of any civil action. Plaintiffs in such cases must provide “clear and convincing” evidence that an intoxicated customer was served, while most civil cases require proof that is “more likely than not,” according to a lawyer who handles dram shop litigation in that state.
The civil suit was filed on June 15th, six days after criminal charges were lodged against the officer. She faces four counts of first-degree involuntary manslaughter, plus one count of second-degree assault for injuries suffered by the other car’s driver. The Sunset Hills Police Department put the officer on unpaid suspension after the charges were filed. The crash occurred about 1:45 a.m. March 21st, when the officer’s Mitsubishi collided with a Honda. Four passengers in the Honda were killed. Stephen Schultz, who is a lawyer from St. Louis, represented the Plaintiffs and did a very good job. This case is a tragic reminder that drinking and driving never pays and quite often results in innocent lives being lost.
Source: Saint Louis Post Dispatch
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