A Decade of Dram Shop Cases
For more than a decade now, Mike Faulk has represented victims and their families who suffered catastrophic injuries and death due to the careless and negligent acts of drunk drivers. On occassion, alcohol vendors have been prosecuted, too, for their role in causing these tragedies. Below is a partial list of the case histories in our "Dram Shop" portfolio.
William Gray and wife, Marjorie v. Ricky Spitzer and Bi-Lo Market, Hawkins County Circuit Court No. 4489J. On October 18, 1992 his son’s 1975 Lincoln Continental broke down on Highway 66 less than a mile from home. William Gray drove his son back to the disabled vehicle and parked nose-to-nose so he could boost the Lincoln. Standing between the two cars off the side of the road, William Gray’s life nearly ended when intoxicated Ricky Spitzer rounded a curve and rear ended the Lincoln Continental. There was time to push his son out of the way, but not enough time for William. His personal injuries were catastrophic. One leg was nearly severed and the other was crushed. William Gray, father of eight, would never work again.
Spitzer had bought beer over the course of the day at the Bulls Gap Bi-Lo Market. On the eve of trial, the corporation owning the market disclosed that it had employed a mystery shopper
to determine whether its markets were illegally selling alcoholic beverages. Just days before William Gray’s life changed forever and Ricky Spitzer was sold even more beer when he was already obviously intoxicated, the underage mystery shopper was sold beer in several of the corporation’s markets.
Bi-Lo Market settled the case agreeing to payments sufficient to retire approximately $150,000 in medical expenses and purchase lifetime annuities making monthly payments to William Gray for his personal injuries.
Linda Yount, Sonya Yount, and Nathan Yount for the Estate of Tommy Yount v. Shane Yankee and Rogersville Exxon Shop, Hawkins County Circuit Court No. 4742J. Linda's husband, Tommy, was killed by a drunk driver on August 13, 1994, just west of Rogersville, Tennessee. Tommy J. Yount, a 45 year old maintenance worker employed by the Hawkins County, Tennessee, Board of Education. Yount, driving a pickup truck, was hit from the side by a Corvette traveling at an extremely high rate of speed at approximately 1:40 a.m. The Corvette was fleeing from Hawkins County Sheriff's Deputies. The driver of the Corvette had a blood alcohol content of .18g% approximately one hour and twenty minutes after the collision. The driver of the Corvette had purchased at least one six pack of beer at the Rogersville Exxon Shop at each of the following times: 1:36 a.m., 12:20 a.m, 10:55 p.m., 9:00 p.m., 7:00 p.m. and approximately 5:00 p.m. in the hours before the collision. The driver of the Corvette was captured on the video surveillance camera at the convenience store each time he purchased beer. With each purchase the driver of the Corvette was more visibly intoxicated. The last time he purchased beer only minutes before the collision, the driver of the Corvette dropped his keys while at the check-out counter, tripped over the rug at the entryway into the store, and had to hold on to the entry door to keep his balance when leaving. The convenience store clerks claimed to be unable to determine if he was intoxicated. The Plaintiffs proceeded under Tennessee's Dram Shop law alleging the Rogersville Exxon Shop sold the Corvette driver alcohol when he was "obviously intoxicated" resulting in Tommy Yount's wrongful death. Plaintiffs also alleged that the Rogersville Exxon Shop failed to train its employees and violated the provisions of the local municipal code regarding the sale of alcohol to persons known to be habitual drunkards. Plaintiff's Decedent earned $24,027.00 annually. Forensic Toxicologist Kenneth Ferslew put the Corvette driver's blood alcohol at the time of the collision at .195g%. Forensic Economist W.F. Mackara determined the value of Plaintiff's pecuniary loss to be $468,398.00. Plaintiffs reached a settlement with the Corvette driver's automobile insurance liability carrier for his policy limits of $50,000.00 for Tommy Yount's wrongful death. Plaintiffs were also able to reach a confidential, non-disclosable -- but substantial -- settlement with the Rogersville Exxon Shop. Sneedville, Tennessee attorney Bill Rhea associated The Faulk Law Office to prosecute this case.
Pauline Blakely v. Johnny Mack Casey and Chucky Trading Company, Washington County Law Court No. 17378. Pauline Blakely was a 62 year old widow who had worked 22 years as a machine operator employed by MECO Corporation in Greeneville, Tennessee. While on her way to work at 3:00 a.m. on December 3, 1994, she was hit head-on by a drunk driver traveling on the wrong side of the roadway resulting in catastrophic personal injuries.
The drunk driver had a blood alcohol content of .33g% approximately four hours and fifteen minutes after the collision. A Forensic Toxicologist calculated the drunk driver's blood alcohol at the time of the collision at .36g%. The drunk driver had purchased 18-20 glasses of beer at the Chucky Trading Company beginning at approximately 8:00 p.m. and ending at approximately 1:30 a.m. The drunk driver was observed by other customers at the bar each time he purchased beer. With each purchase the drunk driver was more visibly intoxicated. The bartenders claimed to be unable to determine if he was intoxicated.
Mrs. Blakely proceeded under Tennessee's Dram Shop law alleging the Chucky Trading Company sold the drunk driver alcohol when he was "obviously intoxicated." She also alleged that the Chucky Trading Company failed to train its employees and violated the provisions of the state code regarding the sale of alcohol to persons known to be habitual drunkards. The tavern had a prior history of alcohol sale violations. The beer license for Chucky Trading Company had been suspended and one of its former employees was convicted of selling beer to a minor. This suit marked the third time Chucky Trading Company was sued under Tennessee's Dram Shop Law for personal injuries.
Pauline earned $18,633.00 annually. Certified vocational expert Norman Hankins determined she was 100% vocationally impaired. A Forensic Economist determined the value of her loss of earning capacity to be $98,640.00. Her medical bills totaled $44,514.61 with future medicals projected to be at least $5,400.00 in present day dollars. Her orthopedist, Dr. John Raff, opined Pauline suffered a 20% whole person impairment resulting from severe personal injuries to her right ankle and foot.
The drunk driver pled guilty to vehicular assault receiving a sentence of two years and a fine of $2,000.00. Mrs. Blakely reached a settlement with the drunk driver's automobile insurance liability carrier for his policy limits of $25,000.00. She was also able to reach a confidential, non-disclosable -- but substantial -- settlement with the Chucky Trading Company for her personal injuries.
Jimmy and Misti Winegar v. Jerry Chidester and Mustang Sally’s, Sullivan County Law Court No. C31684. At about 10:30p.m. On February 3, 1996, Jerry Chidester was served alcoholic beverages while he was already visibly intoxicated at Mustang Sally’s, a nightclub in Kingsport, Tennessee. Chidester continued to drink until the wee hours of the morning of February 4, 1996, and within minutes of leaving Mustang Sally’s, rear-ended the automobile in which the Jimmy Winegar was a passenger, breaking Jimmy’s neck - a catastrophic personal injury.
A Forensic Toxicologist opined that Chidester’s blood alcohol at the time of the collision was .23mg/l. Phyisatrist, Dr. John Marshall, determined that Jimmy Winegar's personal injuries included a 20% permanent partial impairment to the whole person with a cervical spine injury with resultant surgery and neurological impairment. The bar, the drunk driver, and the Winegar’s uninsured motorist insurance carrier all settled the case before trial. Attorney R. Grant Hyatt of Colonial Heights, Tennessee associated The Faulk Law Office to pursue this case.
Rachael Honeycutt and Donna Arrowood v. Jason Lendhurst and Joe’s Market, Unicoi County Circuit Court No. 6275. On November 2, 2001, 16 year old Rachael Honeycutt suffered catastrophic personal injures while riding with her boyfriend. Her right eye was cut out when a telephone pole crashed down on top of the out-of-control car in which she was riding. Her right hip was crushed requiring radiation treatment. Facing weeks and months of rehabilitation and nearly $100,000 in current and future medical bills, her mother turned to Mike Faulk for help. The boyfriend had no automobile insurance. Health insurance wasn't covering all the medical bills. Rachel's mother couldn't work at her job because she had to care for her daughter.
The boyfriend was under 21 years of age and illegally purchased and then illegally consumed enough beer to influence his driving. Both the boyfriend and the beer store denied the sale of beer on that fateful night in November.
The alcohol merchant settled before trial for a confidential sum. The case against the drunk driver was tried on September 23, 2003. A Judgment for Rachael due to her catastrophic personal injuries and her mother in the amount of $982,446.11 was rendered that includes $100,000 in punitive damages. An Erwin, Tennessee lawyer referred this case to The Faulk Law Office.
Tomara Joyner for the Estate of Jeff Joyner v. Brandon Buchanan and Cheddars Casual Café, Sullivan County Law Court No. 5385J. Jeffery Joyner, a successful contractor, was killed on his 35th birthday, September 19, 2001, 5 minutes after leaving the bar of a local restaurant. He was a passenger in his own truck being operated by a friend whose blood alcohol content was nearly two and one-half times the legal limit. The bar's records show the two of them consumed 12 or more alcoholic beverages. Even though the bar's own policy was broken - a 3 drink per person limit - Cheddars denied any responsibility for Joyner's wrongful death but settled for a confidential sum before trial.
Circuit Court Judge Kindall Lawson entered Judgment against the drunk driver for Joyner's wrongful death in the amount of $1,328,332.59 on September 13, 2004.The judgment amount included $50,000.00 in punitive damages.
Jonathan Bivins v. Charles Powers and Longhorn Steakhouse, Davidson County Circuit Court No. 06C-1582. Early on the morning of July 8, 2005, Jonathan Bivins was stopped waiting for the traffic signal to change when he was hit from behind so violently that his Jeep Cherokee was flipped over killing his dog and severely injuring him. He was hit by Charles Powers who a few hours later had a blood alcohol content of nearly three times the legal limit.
Powers' friends were throwing Powers a going away party at the Longhorn Steakhouse in Nashville in the hours before the crash. Proof in the case included records of the amount of alcohol sold and served from the restaurant's computer system.
This was the 5th time Powers was charged with DUI. While this case was pending, he was charged with yet another DUI.
Jonathan Bivins, the son of a retired Court of Criminal Appeals Judge, suffered traumatic brain injuries, thousands upon thousands of dollars in medical expenses and lost wages, and will, in all likelihood, experience a loss of earning capacity for the rest of his life.
Nashville attorney William Leader was associated by the Faulk Law Office to assist in the prosecution of this middle Tennessee case.
The civil case was resolved in mediation in January 2008 for a a confidential, non-disclosable sum.