TortsProf Blog

Editor: Christopher J. Robinette
Widener Commonwealth Law School

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Update: Family of Drunk Driver Dismisses Lawsuit Against Restaurant

As posted earlier, the father of Josh Hancock, a St. Louis Cardinals pitcher killed in a drunk driving accident, filed suit last May against Mike Shannon's Steaks and Seafood, the driver of a stalled car and a towing company for their alleged roles in his son's death.  The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that the family dismissed the suit yesterday just before a hearing on the defendants' motion to dismiss.  The dismissal, however, was without prejudice.  (Howard Wasserman at Sports Law Blog has a thorough post examining the dismissal.)

The Post-Dispatch reports that the family released the following statement: 

    "The subject of my son's death has been widely reported and discussed, as has my motivation to file the wrongful death lawsuit. Often, legal action has more to do with performing responsibilities and gaining control. This lawsuit was not filed for personal gain. Few know that Josh died without a Will, leaving multiple heirs in two separate families in different states. When I became the court appointed Administrator of his estate, I agreed to perform fiduciary responsibilities to protect the interests of his estate and all beneficiaries.

    "Information from the intense news coverage of Josh's tragic death, facts about the accident and varying public statements from witnesses indicated that certain individuals and entities shared some degree of comparative negligence in the cause of Josh's death.

    "The final investigation report recently issued by the Missouri Division of Alcohol and Tobacco Control ("ATC") provided some insight into the events leading to Josh's death. Considering all factual issues, combined with the prolonged legal battles which we would have to fight if this lawsuit were to continue, I have instructed that the defendants be dismissed from the lawsuit.

    "Josh was often quoted saying, 'everything happens for the good.' The ATC report confirms that since his death, bars and restaurants are now becoming even more focused on their responsibilities. I am certain that his death has caused many individuals to become more aware of personal responsibility. Additionally, a number of employers and groups are also examining and changing their alcohol policies.

    "It is my hope that public opinion will eventually have an even greater effect on public policy to emphasize the responsibilities of both those who consume alcohol and those who serve it."

As I queried in my earlier post, was this a classic example of a frivolous lawsuit?  Certainly sounds like the family had a good faith belief that another party was negligent when they filed the suit.  But assuming no discovery has taken place in the past two months (which given the posture of the case seems correct), no new information has been discovered that could not have been learned with greater pre-filing investigation on the part of the plaintiff's attorneys, or in the case of the ATC's final report, some patience in rushing to the courthouse.   Overall, this one seems to exemplify "sue first, ask questions later."


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