Bar May Be Liable for Slaying Outside Taco Bell

     (CN) – A bar that served more than a dozen drinks to a man who later stabbed someone to death may be liable to the victim’s family, the Alaska Supreme Court ruled.
     Jack Elias Morrell, a Native Alaskan Yupik, is scheduled to be released from prison in 2038 after a jury convicted him of second-degree murder related to the February 2004 stabbing death of Eric Kalenka.
     Court records show that Morrell had spent roughly four hours drinking at Chilkoot Charlie’s in Anchorage before the fatal altercation at a Taco Bell drive-thru.
     Morrell testified that he did not drink earlier that night before arriving at Chilkoot Charlie’s and that he did not drink more after leaving at about 2:30 a.m.
     His blood-alcohol content was estimated at 0.27, the equivalent of having consumed at least 13 alcoholic drinks.
     Uwe Kalenka, representing his son’s estate, filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the bar’s parent company, Jadon Inc.
     In moving to dismiss the case, Jadon argued that Morrell’s stabbing of the victim discharged it from liability for Kalenka’s death and that there was no evidence that Jadon served Morrell when he was a “drunken person.”
     The Kalenka estate produced an expert report that stated employees of Chilkoot Charlie’s should have known that Morrell was drunk and should have stopped serving him.
     A Superior Court disagreed, stating that the expert report included “such a degree of speculation” that no jury could infer that Morrell was visibly drunk at the bar.
     Kalenka’s estate appealed, and the Alaska Supreme Court reversed, 3-2, Friday.
     “We conclude that reasonable jurors could disagree about whether Chilkoot Charlie’s served Morrell while he was a statutorily defined ‘drunken person,'” Justice Craig Stowers wrote for the majority.
     “Evaluating all of this factual evidence in a light most favorable to the Kalenka Estate, before the stabbing, Morrell consumers alcohol only at Chilkoot Charlie’s, he was at Chilkoot Charlie’s for two to four hours, he drank about 13-18 drinks in that time period, he was observed to be visibly and obviously impaired by intoxication about 45 minutes after he left, and his blood alcohol at that 45-minute mark was .27,” Stowers added. “These facts are sufficient to raise a genuine issue of material fact whether Morrell was impaired by intoxication when he was served his last drink at Chilkoot Charlie’s.”
     The dissenting justices said that the outward signs of drunkenness that police perceived at the murder scene cannot prove that Morrell behaved drunkenly at the bar.
     “These symptoms of intoxication were entirely reactive and specific to the unfortunate context of Morrell’s altercation with Eric Kalenka and its aftermath,” Justice Peter Maassen wrote, joined by Justice TK TK. “There is no evidence that any such prompt occurred while Morrell was at Chilkoot Charlie’s; there is no evidence that he became ’emotional or uncooperative’ toward anybody. Indeed, as the court also notes, the only eyewitness testimony about Morrell’s usual appearance at Chilkoot Charlie’s was that he was ‘polite, soft-spoken and mellow.'”
     Court records from Morrell’s criminal case show that the defendant also had marijuana in his system at the time of the murder as well as 4 ounces in his car.

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