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Drunken driving wrongful death suit settles for $8.6 million

The families of the victims of a drunken college student who drove the wrong way on an interstate highway have reached an $8.6 million settlement in their cases against the driver, his fraternity, two bars where he drank despite being underage, and other individuals who supplied him alcohol.

Plaintiffs alleged that all of those defendants contributed to the intoxication of the student, who was tried and convicted of three counts of involuntary manslaughter, misdemeanor reckless driving and driving while impaired.

The plaintiffs were returning from an annual memorial service for a relative and family friend when the wreck occurred. The student’s blood alcohol content was measured at .17 after the crash. Plaintiffs’ expert estimated it was .19 at the time of the wreck. In addition, plaintiffs’ experts said that because of the synergistic effect of marijuana the student had smoked, along with the alcohol, the student was even more highly impaired at the time of the wreck.

Plaintiffs initially filed suit against the student, his parents and two bars, alleging that the student had been served alcohol at the bars despite being under age and intoxicated. The student was 20 at the time of the crash.

Later, additional defendants were added, including the student’s fraternity, where plaintiffs alleged he drank and smoked marijuana before the crash; the alumni group that owned the fraternity house; and several of the student’s friends who allegedly furnished him alcohol even though he was underage or intoxicated. In all, 19 defendants were sued.

Witnesses testified that the student was smoking marijuana and drinking on and off throughout the day leading up to the 3 a.m. wreck.

The defendant bars maintained that the student used someone else’s valid identification to gain entry to their bars, and that he did not appear intoxicated at the time he was served. The fraternity organizations argued that they were not responsible for the student, who was not living at the fraternity house.

Settlement Report –

  • Wrongful death
  • Amount: $8.62 million
  • Injuries: Wrongful deaths of two adults and a 6-year-old child, injury to a 9-year-old.
  • Case name: Withheld
  • Case nos. 15 CVS 1021; 15 CVS 1061; 15 CVS 1162
  • Date of settlement: May 2018
  • Attorneys for plaintiffs: David Kirby and Bill Bystrynski of Edwards Kirby, Raleigh; Charles G. Monnett III of Charles Monnett and Associates, Charlotte; T. Shawn Howard of Maginnis Law, Raleigh; Marcel McCrea, Phillips and McCrea, Charlotte; Ryan Oxendine and Jim Barnes, Oxendine, Barnes and Associates, Raleigh.
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