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More Than $1.5M Awarded In DUI Suit

WOODSFIELD — A Monroe County jury awarded more than $1.5 million to a local woman who suffered life-threatening injuries as a result of a December 2014 drunken-driving crash, according to a news release issued by the plaintiff’s attorneys.

Gold, Khourey & Turak filed a lawsuit on behalf of a young woman against the drunken driver and the Beallsville American Legion. The lawsuit alleged the driver was a patron of the Legion and that the establishment continued to serve her alcohol after she became visibly intoxicated.

The victim, a 21-year-old woman, was traveling home after dropping off a friend from a day of Christmas shopping when she was hit head-on by the drunken driver. The black box recovered from the drunken driver’s vehicle indicated the vehicle was traveling 70 mph when it went left of center and hit the victim’s vehicle head-on.

The drunken driver’s blood-alcohol level was found to be more than twice the legal limit for driving, which is 0.08 percent, at the time of the crash.

The victim was flown by medical helicopter to Ruby Memorial Hospital in Morgantown with bleeding on the brain, a ruptured spleen, lacerated liver, broken arm, dislocated elbow, fractured femur and other serious injuries. Now 25 years old, the woman suffers from long-term health problems and significant scarring as a result of the crash. She will require medical treatment for the rest of her life.

The trial was held in Monroe County Common Pleas Court in Woodsfield. While the drunken driver admitted responsibility for the crash, the Beallsville American Legion denied any liability. After four days of trial, the jury found the Legion negligent for knowingly serving alcohol to a visibly intoxicated person that resulted in the crash.

The jury also instructed that the Legion pay the plaintiff’s attorney fees.

The law firm did not provide the names of the accident victim or the driver who caused the crash. However, Monroe County Prosecutor James Peters confirmed that Carol Jones was convicted about two years ago of causing the collision that led to the lawsuit. While he was not involved in the civil case, he said the Legion was ordered to pay 70 percent of the damages, excluding punitive damages, which he said total about $500,000.

“The people of Monroe County delivered a strong message to drunk drivers and the businesses who serve visibly intoxicated patrons: It’s not OK, and you will be held accountable,” said attorney Teena Miller of Gold, Khourey & Turak, who represented the plaintiff. “The verdict is a reminder to all of us — drunk drivers put us all at risk and everyone, including bars, needs to take responsibility for making our roads and communities safer.”

Similar to many states, Ohio and West Virginia have laws that hold businesses accountable for serving alcohol to a visibly intoxicated person. These laws also hold businesses responsible for serving anyone under the age of 21 who is involved in a drunken-driving crash.

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