It is well-known that the combination of bars, alcohol, and automobiles is never a good idea. This observation has been confirmed after what began as a barroom argument resulted in the early morning death of a Houston-area man and injuries to three others.
At around 2:00 AM Thursday, police and emergency medical services units responded to a call relating to pedestrians that had been injured by an automobile in the parking lot of the Bayou City Bar & Grill. Upon their arrival responders found that one of the four victims, later identified as Jared Jonte Jacobs, had sustained multiple injuries after being struck by an automobile driven by Cordale Robinson. Jacobs died shortly after being transported to a local hospital while the other victims reportedly sustained serious but non-life-threating injuries.
According to a preliminary investigation by the Houston Police Department, Robinson had been involved in a verbal altercation with an unidentified group inside the bar. While the bar was in the process of closing, the dispute apparently spilled over into the bar’s parking lot and soon led to a physical altercation between Robinson and the group. The early investigation of the incident suggests that Robinson was able to reach his automobile and, while attempting to leave the area, struck Jacobs and three or four other bar patrons as they left the bar, as well as striking two parked vehicles. A friend of Robinson told police that Robinson had acted in “self-defense” and was attempting to elude his attackers when the accident occurred. Robinson was later arrested on charges of murder and aggravated assault with a motor vehicle in connection with the incident.
This tragic incident could potentially involve several issues related to liability should a wrongful death lawsuit, along with personal injury and property damage lawsuits, be filed against the driver of the vehicle that caused the injuries and personal property damages. Potential defendants in such lawsuits could include at least two parties: 1) Robinson, the driver and 2) the bar itself. Let’s look at how Texas law relates to personal injury and wrongful death issues in this case.
- The vehicle’s driver/ owner
Robinson, the driver, is obviously liable for any damages that were directly related to the incident. Since it has been reported that Robinson did not own the vehicle that he was driving at the time of the accident, the vehicle owner (and his / her insurance company) could be held liable if it can be shown that Robinson’s driving record was such that it was negligence of the part of the owner to loan Robinson the vehicle.
- “Dram Shop” law and personal injury liability
Texas state law allows a bar patron to sue a bar, tavern, or any retail alcohol seller if the patron was obviously intoxicated when last served and is subsequently injured in an accident. The Texas civil courts have extended this right to sue to include the victims and surviving family members of those who are killed or injured by an intoxicated driver.
Why you should retain a Texas personal injury lawyer
Once again, this case illustrates the many issues that need to be addressed in any motor vehicle where alcohol may have been a factor in the accident itself. Since many potential plaintiffs will be unfamiliar with such issues, it is always a good move for you to contact an experienced local personal injury law to discuss what legal avenues may be open in an individual accident case.
An accident lawyer will be able to conduct hos or her own investigation of an accident, including events that may be considered as violations of civil law rather than criminal and thus may have been overlooked by investigating law enforcement agencies. As an example, the investigating police department would not have been concerned about any aspects of the case that may have occurred inside the bar and, although such events may later prove to be important in establishing liability, they were not relevant to the criminal investigation of the incident.
A personal injury and wrongful death lawyer will also be able to determine if there are any statutory limitations on the amount of damages that may be recovered in a wrongful death case. Texas law, as do many other states, limits the amount of damages that may be recovered in some types of civil lawsuits. In addition, Texas law embraces the legal doctrine known as the Modified Comparative Fault Rule. Under this doctrine, an injured person (or the injured persons estate) cannot recover damages of any type if their own actions are felt to have been at least 51% responsible for their injuries. This is, admittedly, beyond the scope of this posting and any question regarding the Comparative Fault Rule should be directed to a Texas personal injury lawyer.
In summary, we have reviewed an unusual personal injury and wrongful death case where the injuries were received on private property rather than on a public street or highway. Although the location of the accident is unusual, the same principles of personal injury law will apply to this and any other such case.