The parent of a dead police officer plan to sue Bugsy’s Beer Garden and Ruby Tuesday’s, Inc. for causing their son’s death.
Officer Michael Todd May was killed in February of this year, after Jerod Alan Green’s Chevrolet Silverado collided with his police car on Interstate 79. Green — who was named as a defendant in the suit — was found to be driving while intoxicated and while under the influence of other drugs. He was in the midst of fleeing a prior accident that he had caused, and was being chased by the Monongalia County Sheriff’s Department. Green was allegedly a patron at Bugsy’s and Ruby Tuesday’s prior to getting behind the wheel. Franklin Gerald May and Catherine Faye Baker May, serving as administrators of Officer May’s estate, claim that both establishments kept serving Green alcohol until his blood alcohol content was .189 or above. West Virginia’s legal minimum for intoxication is .08. Both establishments, the Mays claim, kept serving alcohol even after they knew or should have known that Green was “visibly and noticeably” intoxicated. As a result of Green’s alleged gross negligence and recklessness, and of the two establishments’ alleged negligence, Officer May suffered serious injuries that resulted in his death. May’s parents seek compensatory and punitive damages.
West Virginia is one of a majority of states to have what are known as “dram shop” laws. That means an establishment that serves alcohol can be held liable for any accident caused by a customer who was noticeably intoxicated while on the premises. The liability is financial only, not criminal. Nonetheless, it serves as a reminder to restaurants and other alcohol-serving establishments that they have a responsibility, not just to their customers, but also to the public at large. Why should they be permitted to look the other way as someone becomes heavily intoxicated, just because it brings more money to the business?
We at the Wolfe Law Firm think that Officer May’s parents are taking the right approach by not overlooking Bugsy’s and Ruby Tuesday’s role in their son’s death. It serves as a reminder to anyone who has suffered the wrongful death of a loved one that multiple people can be held responsible for one accident. If your loved one was killed in an accident caused by a drunk driver, you could hire a West Virginia wrongful death attorney and sue both the driver and any establishment that might have served him. You would sue the driver for negligence — or, if warranted, gross negligence or recklessness — claiming that the driver had a duty to other drivers to act reasonably by following the rules of the road. The driver breached that duty by driving drunk, and the breach led to an injury that resulted in your loved one’s death. If there are records showing that the driver was noticeably intoxicated, it should be relatively easy to make your case — unless there is evidence that your loved one was intoxicated as well, or otherwise performed an action that was clearly negligent. In West Virginia, if the plaintiff was 50% or more at fault, the plaintiff — or the plaintiff’s estate — cannot collect.
It might be a little more difficult to hold responsible establishments that the driver frequented. You would likely need witnesses who would swear that the driver was in the establishment prior to the accident, had been served alcohol there, was acting noticeably intoxicated, and that the wait staff was aware, or at least should have been aware based on their proximity.