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Overservice of Alcohol to Patron at Bar – October 2010 Tragedy

On October 29, 2010, Matthew and Meredith Eastridge’s lives were forever changed in an unfortunate car accident with a drunk driver. Almost two years later, the Charlotte couple has finally received justice and won a $1.7 million dollar verdict against the bar who over-served the man who hit them and cost them the life of their unborn son.

On that tragic night almost two years ago, Mr. Eastridge was driving his 2006 Toyota RAV 4 in the northbound lane of the 3800 block of Providence Road. He was traveling with his wife who was six months pregnant with their first son. Just a few miles down the road David Huffman had just left the premises of Eddie’s Place Restaurant in his 1997 Volvo and was traveling in the southbound right lane of Providence Road. Twenty-five year old Huffman had been drinking heavily at the bar and was traveling 91 mph in the 45 mph zone when he lost control of his vehicle. His Volvo slid sideways into the oncoming traffic lanes and struck the vehicle occupied by the Eastridges at approximately 74 mph. The Toyota was thrown backward upon impact, struck the sidewalk, and rolled onto its right side.

David Huffman was pronounced dead at the scene of the collision. Matt and Meredith Eastridge were transported to Carolinas Medical Center-Main for treatment of very serious, life-threatening injuries sustained during the collision. Meredith Eastridge suffered a uterine rupture and lost their unborn child as a result of her injuries. She was told by her OB/Gyn that if she got pregnant again, she would be considered high risk and they would have to deliver the baby approximately a month early via c-section.

Both Meredith and Matthew had to endure multiple surgeries, months in the hospital and months of rehab to recover from the accident. To this day they both still suffer chronic pain and have multiple scars to remind them of the horrific accident. It is likely that neither will ever be in the same physical shape as they were prior to the accident and will never be able to participate in the same physically challenging activities.

Two lives were lost and two lives will be forever changed. So how could this tragic accident have been avoided and how can another be prevented? Should all of the blame go on the drunk driver? He made the choice the to drink and drive and we all have to take responsibility for our actions. People are aware before they make the choice to drink that overconsumption will lead to lower inhibitions and oftentimes extreme behavior. It is the drinker’s responsibility to monitor their consumption of alcohol to prevent this from occurring. It is also their responsibility to coordinate a sober driver before they begin drinking if driving is going to be an issue.

This may seem like a black and white issue of responsibility, but there does appear to be some gray area. If a person is drinking and their inhibitions and decision-making abilities are being altered, can anyone be surprised if they make the poor decision to keep drinking? This is where the responsibility of the bartender comes into play. It is the bartender’s duty to make sure patrons are not over-served and to cutoff any patron that is showing signs of intoxication. N.C. Gen. Stat. § 18B-305 makes it unlawful for a licensee, permittee or their employees to knowingly sell or give alcoholic beverages to a person who is intoxicated. This protects customers from being taken advantage of by bartenders who are more concerned about tips than another person’s well being.

This is exactly what happened at Eddie’s Place on that unfortunate night in October 2010.

David Huffman arrived at Eddie’s Place around 10:00 pm on October 28, 2010. Surveillance videos show that while sitting at the bar, Huffman was served ten drinks (4 beers and 6 Grand Marnier shots) from the time he entered until the time he left at 12:28 am. Surveillance videos also show Huffman stubble several times walking to the bathroom and even walk into a wall. His behavior clearly showed that he was intoxicated, yet the bartender continued to serve him. The bartender admitted that he knew Huffman was drunk 15 minutes before Huffman left the bar, yet surveillance video shows that Huffman received 3 more drinks in the 15 minute time period before he exited. The bartender also confirmed that he was aware that Huffman had driven himself to the bar. Considering Huffman was drinking alone at the bar and had driven himself to the establishment, it was reasonable for someone to assume that Huffman intended to drive himself home that night.

The crash with the Eastridges occurred just three minutes after Huffman had left the bar. The toxicology tests revealed that Huffman had a blood alcohol concentration of .23, almost three times the legal limit. Had the bartender refused to serve Huffman once he was noticeably intoxicated, this whole tragedy might have been avoided.

While the Eastridges have finally received justice with a $1.7 million verdict, they say it is not about the money. They hope the verdict raises awareness about drunk driving and the importance of making sure businesses focus on the way their employees serve alcohol. They hope that businesses will spend more time training employees to make sure they know the signs to look out for when dealing with customers and alcohol. The hope is that this verdict will change how businesses serve alcohol and prevent further tragedies like this from occurring. The Eastridge's even made a contribution to Mothers Against Drunk Driving in honor of their unborn son, who they named Eli.

If you, a friend, or loved one is injured in an alcohol-related accident, the lawyers at Charles G. Monnett III & Associates have the background and experience to properly evaluate your case and file a claim with the goal of ensuring you and your family receive the compensation you deserve.


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