CHARLESTON, S.C. (CN) - The Charleston restaurant that Bon Appetit magazine called the "Best New Restaurant in America" in 2011 faces a wrongful-death claim from an alcohol-related fatal accident allegedly involving one of its managers.
The family of the late Quentin Miller claims Miller was trapped in his car after an early morning crash on Dec. 17, 2011 and burned to death when the car burst into flames.
They sued The Neighborhood Dining Group dba Husk Restaurant in the Charleston County Court of Common Pleas. The corporation and business is the only defendant.
The Miller family says the Husk Restaurant negligently allowed assistant manager Adam Burnell to get drunk on its premises after hours and then drive home just before dawn.
They claim 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, resulting in both vehicles careening out of control.
Miller's Mustang smashed into a concrete barrier on the bridge and exploded.
Miller's 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 says that Burnell's blood alcohol content was above the legal limit in South Carolina. Published reports have since said his blood alcohol level was three times the legal limit.
The Miller family says that the restaurant - which also was honored as "Best New Restaurant in the South" by Southern Living magazine - 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.
David Howard, president of Husk's parent corporation, Neighborhood Dining Group, acknowledged in a statement that the restaurant has been served with the lawsuit.
"While we are deeply saddened by this tragedy, unfortunately we are unable to respond to further questioning at this time due to legal complexities," Howard said, adding, "our hearts go out to the Miller family."
Miller's family seeks actual and punitive damages and court costs.
They are represented by Carl E. Pierce II, with Pierce, Herns, Sloan & Wilson, of Charleston.
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