LONGVIEW, Texas (CN) – A woman died and a man is paralyzed because Don’s Fly-Thru Beer Barn – a “drive-in bar” where “patrons are allowed to drink and drive right out … with their alcoholic beverages in hand” – sold a man a second 30-pack of beer after he had drunk the first 30 he had bought there that day, the families say. The driver blew a .20 an hour after the fatal accident, and police found 109 beer cans in his truck, according to the complaints.
Josh Harrington says he has been paralyzed and wheelchair-bound since the night of Jan. 8, 2009. He hitched a ride that night with his friend, the late Sarah Marie Hill.
Harrington and Hill’s family sued the owners of Don’s Fly-Thru Beer Barn: Taylor & Humphreys Investments and Talley Oil Co., in Gregg County Court.
Hill, a friend of Harrington, clocked out of her job at an Applebee’s restaurant at 11:26 that night, and both hitched a ride with Harrington’s friend, Robert Casey Kirk. Less than half an hour later, Hill was dead and Harrington had a ruptured aorta and diaphragm, broken ribs and a dislocated hip.
Kirk, “severely intoxicated,” drove his truck “at a high rate of speed” more than 150 feet from the edge of an intersection, and smashed into a tree, according to the complaints.
Neither complaint names Kirk as a defendant, though apparently he survived.
Almost an hour after the accident, Kirk “still had a blood alcohol level of .20 grams/100 ml of blood – almost three (3) times to legal limit in Texas,” according to the Hills’ complaint.
As for Don’s Fly-Thru Beer Barn: “Defendants operate a business that sells alcoholic beverages to people while they are driving cars and trucks,” the Hills’ complaint states. “The business, whose trade name is Don’s Fly-Thru Beer Barn, is essentially a drive-in bar complete with carhops where drivers enter the establishment by driving their vehicles into a building and then they are sold alcohol while still inside their car. Patrons are allowed to drink and drive right out of Don’s Fly Thru Beer Barn with their alcoholic beverages in hand.
“On the night in question, Mr. Kirk had already driven through defendants’ beer barn and purchased thirty (30) cans of beer once that day.
“Despite being obviously intoxicated, and having consumed the first thirty (30) cans of beer, Mr. Kirk then drove through defendants’ beer barn a second time very shortly before Ms. Hill was killed and purchased an additional thirty (30) cans of beer.
“In fact, Texas State Troopers found one-hundred (109) opened and unopened beer cans in and around Mr. Kirk’s truck following Ms. Hill’s death.
“Even though it would have been apparent to any reasonable person that Mr. Kirk was intoxicated and in an unsafe condition to operate a motor vehicle, defendants decided that the safety of the public and young women such as Ms. Hill was less important than losing a potential sale, and sold him his second round of thirty (30) anyway.
“As a result of defendants’ ridiculously negligent actions, Ms. Hill’s young life was violently and bloodily cut short and her parents have been devastated.”
Harrington says that his life “has been violently altered and destroyed.”
Harrington and the Hills demand punitive damages for negligence, pain and suffering, gross negligence, and providing alcohol to an intoxicated adult.
Both are represented by Jarom Tefteller with Tefteller Newsom & Tefteller, of Gilmer.
Texas was long famous for its “roadie:” drivers could legally carry an open container of alcohol, and drink, so long as they were not drunk. The state finally adopted its “long awaited open container law” in September 2001, to help “combat drinking and driving” over Labor Day weekend that year, according to the Texas Department of Public Safety.
As of November 2007, Mississippi was the only state that allowed drivers to drink alcohol, so long as they were not legally drunk – 0.08 percent blood alcohol content, though some counties in Mississippi prohibit open containers.
Eight states allow passengers to drink while someone else drives, as of November 2007. Those states are Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, Mississippi, Missouri, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia.