Restaurant Settles Death Claim for $1.1 Million

     CHARLESTON, S.C. (CN) – The Husk Restaurant, which Bon Appetit magazine last year called the Best New Restaurant in America, will pay $1.1 million to settle a wrongful-death claim from a crash allegedly involving a drunk manager.
     Neighborhood Dining Group dba Husk Restaurant and its insurance carrier, Peerless Indemnity, settled with the parents and common-law wife of the late Quentin Miller, who was trapped in his car after an early morning crash on Dec. 17, 2011 and burned to death.
     A federal judge in Charleston was expected to approve the settlement this morning.
     In a lawsuit filed in the Charleston County Court of Common Pleas, then removed to Federal Court, the Millers claimed Husk Restaurant negligently allowed assistant manager Adam Burnell to get drunk on its premises after hours and then drive home just before dawn.
     They claimed that as Burnell drove on the Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge between Charleston and Mt. Pleasant he crashed his Audi crashed into the back of Miller’s Mustang, and both vehicles careened out of control.
     Miller’s Mustang smashed into a concrete barrier and exploded. His family says their son “suffered multiple body traumas, blunt force trauma, and neck and back injuries and suffered conscious pain and suffering when his vehicle was hit from behind by Burnell’s vehicle. …
     “(T)he vehicle being driven by the decedent burst into flames while the decedent was trapped inside … and unable to free himself, which ultimately resulted in decedent suffering an excruciating death when his body was consumed by the flames of the burning vehicle.”
     The family claimed Burnell’s blood alcohol content was above the legal limit in South Carolina. Published reports at the time said his blood alcohol level was three times the legal limit.
     Burnell was not a party to the complaint, or the settlement.
     The Miller family claimed that the restaurant – which also was honored as “Best New Restaurant in the South” by Southern Living magazine and was the subject of a lengthy profile in The New Yorker – knew or should have known that Burnell was drunk and incapable of safely operating a motor vehicle, and that Quentin Miller’s death was the direct result of its grossly negligent, careless, willful, wanton and reckless disregard of these facts.
     Under the settlement, Quentin’s parents, Terry and Nancy Miller, are to receive $518,513, and Hall, his common-law wife, $91,500. The remaining money will satisfy $440,000 in attorneys’ fees and $50,000 in court costs.
     Neighborhood Dining Group denied any fault or liability.
     The family is represented by Louis Herns, with Pierce, Herns, Sloan and Wilson, of Charleston.
     The restaurant is represented by Roopal Samuels, with Haynsworth Sinkler Boyd, of Columbia.

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