Drunk Driver On Trial For Triple-Fatal North Carolina Crash, Wrongful Death Lawsuits Pending

A 21-year-old Asheboro man is on trial for three counts of felony second-degree murder and one count of misdemeanor reckless driving after a North Carolina drunk driving accident that killed three people, including a six-year-old girl. Beer Bottles

The deadly crash happened in July 2015 on Interstate 85, just west of Hillsborough. Previously, the defendant pleaded guilty to a number of other charges, including three counts of felony death by a motor vehicle, driving while impaired, and felony serious injury by vehicle. Testimony at trial indicated three of the people in the car – one of those being the grandmother of the six-year-old – died from blunt force trauma. A fourth person, a girl who is now 11, survived the crash, albeit with bone fractures and other injuries.

There is no dispute about what happened. The defendant was drunk and was driving in the wrong direction on the highway. The question is whether he acted with malice. That charge goes above and beyond simply driving drunk. It involves an intentional act. Meanwhile, at least two wrongful death lawsuits by victims’ families are pending. Among the defendants named in those cases are the driver, his parents, the owners of a bar in Chapel Hill called “He’s Not Here,” the owners of the “La Residence Restaurant and Bar,” and the Farrington Farm Restaurant.

It is alleged the driver was able to obtain alcohol at those locations by using a phony driver’s license. He reportedly purchased and consumed this alcohol at the age of 20 and then drove in the wrong direction down the highway.

These third-party entities can be held legally liable for the negligent and reckless actions of a patron under North Carolina’s dram shop law, codified in North Carolina General Statutes section 18B-121. The statute allows an alcohol vendor to be liable to persons injured by a consumer of that alcohol if:

  • The vendor was negligent in serving alcohol to a minor under the age of 21;
  • The minor caused a motor vehicle accident while under the influence of alcohol that was sold or served by the vendor; and
  • The accident and subsequent injuries were legally caused by the minor’s negligent driving while under the influence of the vendor’s alcohol.

Although in other states, like South Carolina, vendors can be held liable no matter how old the patron, North Carolina limits liability to crashes caused by a drunk minor. North Carolina also requires that the vendor was negligent in serving alcohol to the minor. That means it must be shown that the vendor failed to use due care. In this Hillsborough case, the issue will likely be the quality of that fake ID. If the vendors failed to ask for it at all, that could be a basis to assert negligence. Likewise, if the ID was clearly a fake, or if there is any indication that employees knew or should have known it wasn’t real, that also could be a basis for asserting negligence.

According to testimony from the defendant’s friends and fellow students at the civil trial, the events started on the morning of the crash with a gathering at the beach, where the friends reportedly smoked marijuana. Then, the group purchased two cases of beer and went to a fraternity house, where they drank beer and smoked more marijuana. Then, they went to a private apartment, where more beer was consumed. Several of the friends had phony driver’s licenses and used them on weekends at local bars. The defendant reportedly got into an argument with a friend over a girl. He was found by two other friends in his vehicle in a parking lot. They attempted to stop him from driving. They were able to wrestle away his cell phone but not his keys. He took off. Not long afterward, 911 calls started coming in to local dispatch about a wrong-way driver on the interstate. The defendant struck the victims head-on, traveling at 70 mph.

Afterward, his blood-alcohol content tested at 0.17, more than twice the legal limit for someone of age, and he also tested positive for marijuana. Beer cans were strewn about the inside of the Jeep, and a trooper said it appeared the driver did not know where he was at the time of the crash.

The victims had been on their way home to Charlotte following a family reunion in Virginia.

Contact the Carolina injury lawyers at the Lee Law Offices by calling 800-887-1965.

Additional Resources:

Witnesses testify in Kania trial; juror dismissed for sleeping, Oct. 6, 2016, By Tammy Grubb, Courier-Tribune

More Blog Entries:

Grandfather Files Lawsuit Against Grandson for Crash That Killed Grandmother, Oct. 7, 2016, Charlotte Car Accident Lawyer Blog

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