Casey & Devoti recently settled a wrongful death car crash case for $375,000. Attorneys represented the four minor children of Jackelin Rincon, who was killed in a 2-vehicle crash in St. Francois County in November 2011. Casey & Devoti Partner, Matthew Devoti served as lead counsel and was assisted by Jackie Gonz of the Jacquelyn S. Gonz Law Firm LLC of Ste. Genevieve.
Jackelin Rincon was a passenger in a vehicle driven by Jeremy Hansell, who at the time of the crash, had a blood alcohol content of .252. Hansell drove the wrong way and crashed head-on into a truck, killing both Rincon and the driver of the truck.
The $375,000 settlement arose from two separate liable parties. First, plaintiff’s attorneys demanded and received the policy limits from Hansell’s insurance carrier, which was $25,000 per person. Second, under Missouri’s Dram Shop Law, plaintiff’s attorneys demanded the commercial policy limit of Hub’s Pub, the bar and grill in Bonne Terre, Missouri, where Jeremy Hansell drank to excess prior to the crash.
The attorneys and Hub’s Pub mediated their case before retired Judge Brendan Ryan and settled on $350,000 per victim killed in the crash. Following a hearing in July 2015 in the St. Francois Circuit Court, the settlement was approved by presiding Judge Sandy Martinez.
Dram shop liability refers to the body of law governing the liability of taverns, liquor stores and other commercial establishments that serve alcoholic beverages. Missouri’s dram shop law only allows for recovery when the establishment knew (or should have known) the customer was visibly intoxicated and continued to serve the intoxicated customer intoxicating liquor. The law also requires proof that the party demonstrates “significantly uncoordinated physical action or significant physical dysfunction.” These measures of the law are oftentimes difficult to prove, as the plaintiff must prove them by “clear and convincing evidence.”
In this particular case, the only witnesses to the events leading up to the crash were Jeremy Hansell, Jackelin Rincon (now deceased), and the Hub’s Pub bartender and bar bouncer. Through the testimony of the Hub’s Pub bartender and bar bouncer, plaintiff’s attorneys were able to show that these employees should have known Jeremy Hansell was visibly intoxicated, but continued to serve him an excessive amount of intoxicating liquors during his time at Hub’s Pub. Additional testimony, provided by a friend of Jackelin Rincon, who spoke to Hansell by phone the night of the crash, further confirmed that he was slurring his words and, in her opinion, he had “no business driving a vehicle”.
Later in the evening, Hansell and Rincon left Hub’s Pub and drove approximately 16 miles to another bar in Farmington, Missouri called Rum Runners. The manager there refused to serve Hansell, so he and Rincon left and shortly thereafter plowed head-on into a truck. Rincon and the driver of the truck were killed instantly.