Well-Crafted Legal Citations and Arguments Result in Settlement of Wrongful Death Case for Minimal Amount

January 2013

Overview

Michael Eisenbaum of Gray•Duffy’s Encino office successfully negotiated the settlement of a potential multi-million dollar wrongful death case for $4,000 after establishing that liability was highly unlikely.

Discussion

Estate of John Thomas Ellison, et al. v. Coach’s Sports Bar

The 25-year-old decedent, John Thomas Ellison, became severely intoxicated at the defendant’s bar and was escorted out by the security guard. The security guard ordered a taxi to take the decedent home, but he drove away before the taxi arrived. In the lawsuit filed by his parents, they claimed that the security guard became distracted, leaving the decedent unsupervised and thus allowing him to drive away. On the way home, the decedent lost control of his vehicle and crashed into a telephone pole while traveling at approximately 80 mph. The coroner determined that the decedent had a blood alcohol content of .21 percent, which was nearly 2.5 times the legal limit.

In the defense of the case, Mr. Eisenbaum asserted that the claim was barred by Business & Professions Code, §25602(b) provides that “No person who sells, furnishes, gives, or causes to be sold, furnished, or given away, any alcoholic beverage pursuant to subdivision (a) of this section shall be civilly liable to any injured person or the estate of such person for injuries inflicted on that person as a result of intoxication by the consumer of such alcoholic beverage”. However, the plaintiffs’ attorney was attempting to invoke a case law exception to this rule by alleging that the security guard agreed to take the decedent’s keys and breached that agreement. Prior to filing a motion for summary judgment, Mr. Eisenbaum was able to convince the plaintiffs’ counsel that the exception would not apply, and that the court was likely to dismiss the case if the motion for summary judgment was filed. Through aggressive settlement negotiations, the plaintiffs ultimately agreed to accept $4,000 which was roughly the cost of preparing the motion for summary judgment. The plaintiffs were made aware that if the motion was prepared, the settlement offer would be withdrawn.

Please Note: This article is necessarily general in nature and is not a substitute for legal advice with respect to any particular case. Readers should consult with an attorney before taking any action affecting their interests.