Appeals court rules bar not responsible in wrongful death caused by intoxicated restaurant worker

By Charmaine Little | Dec 14, 2018

MIAMI --  Florida's Third District Court of Appeal affirmed Dec. 12 a lower court’s ruling that a bar was not responsible for a man’s drunken state when he struck a Moped, killing one person.

The appeals court also affirmed the denial of a request by the bar, a subsidiary of Hayes Robertson Group Inc., attorney fees. The decedent’s estate, along with the three survivors of the crash, appealed the Monroe County Circuit Court's jury verdict that was in favor of Hayes, finding that it was not liable for the accident. They also appealed the lower court’s ruling that denied their motion for a new trial and final judgment. The appeals court affirmed each of the circuit court’s decisions against the estate. Hayes made its own appeal and challenged the denial of attorney fees, which the appeals court affirmed.

The four plaintiffs sued Hayes for wrongful death and personal injury. The driver in the accident, Daniel Mira Jr. worked for Fogarty’s Restaurant, a subsidiary of Hayes. He was drinking at the restaurant and one bartender testified when he left, he was clearly under the influence as his speech was slurred and he had trouble walking. Mira ended up hitting two couples riding on Mopeds, killing one and seriously injuring the other three. 

Although it wasn’t clear how much Mira drank, three hours after the crash his blood alcohol level (BAC) was 0.173, more than twice the allotted legal ceiling. Hayes responded with settlement proposals, all of which were rejected. He then motioned for attorney fees after trial.

Circuit Judge Leslie B. Rothenberg   Third District Court of Appeal

In their appeal, the plaintiffs say the trial court erred in determining if an expert testimony was admissible. The appeals court evaluated the lower court’s decision to remove a witness' opinion on Mira’s possible habitual addiction to alcohol. 

“Given the stipulation between the parties regarding Mira’s BAC levels upon arrest and at the time of the accident, [the] proffered toxicology testimony would then seem merely to bolster the testimony of lay witnesses with an incomplete attempt at medical diagnosis,” the appeals court said. Considering this, the appeals court said the lower court correctly removed the witness' testimony and reiterated Hayes was not responsible for Mira’s condition at the time of the accident.

As for attorney fees, the appeals court said the trial court didn’t err when denying this either, pointing out the request came after the jury’s verdict.

Circuit Judge Leslie B. Rothenberg wrote the opinion. Judges Vance E. Salter and Norma S. Lindsey concurred.

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