Tallahassee, FL— Attorneys Monday battled over responsibility for the late-night crash that left a Florida woman with catastrophic brain damage, as retrial opened against the bars that served two underage drinkers. Faircloth v. Cantina 101, et al., 2015-CA-002778.
Jacquelyn Faircloth was 18 when she was struck by a pickup driven by Devon Dwyer, then 20, near Tallahassee's Florida State University. The November 2014 crash occurred at about 2 a.m., shortly after Dwyer left Potbelly’s, a campus-area bar where he had been drinking. Faircloth, who was crossing Tallahassee’s West Pensacola Street at the time of the crash, had been drinking at Cantina 101, another area bar.
The crash left Faircloth with severe brain damage, unable to communicate or care for herself.
During Monday’s openings, the Faircloth family’s attorney, Avera & Smith’s Mark Avera, argued Faircloth’s medical expenses and lost income total more than $21 million alone. “There’s a reason we don’t sell alcohol to underage people,” Avera said. “This is what can happen.”
Dwyer, who fled the crash scene, was later arrested and ultimately sentenced to two-and-a-half years in prison for the hit and run.
Trial against the owners of the two bars turns on the role alcohol played in the crash. Cantina 101’s owner admits fault for illegally serving Faircloth booze, so trial against that bar is effectively limited to damages.
Main Street Entertainment, the owner of Potbelly’s, admits to illegally serving Dwyer alcohol but contends he was not drunk when he hit Faircloth.
However, in Monday’s openings, Avera contended evidence would show Dwyer was driving drunk when he hit Faircloth.
Avera walked jurors through the evening, noting Dwyer bought 18 beers and six bourbons across about four hours at the bar. And he said one of Dwyer’s friends described him as looking drunk before the crash, while an expert would conclude Dwyer was speeding when he struck Faircloth, seconds after leaving the bar.
Then, “Mr. Dwyer flees the scene and hides himself, and his blood-alcohol level,” Avera said, noting Dwyer would acknowledge he fled because he had been drinking.
But Main Street counters Dwyer had only four drinks while at the bar and that he bought the other drinks for friends. On Monday, Main Street’s attorney, Kubicki Draper’s Brian Chojnowski, told jurors Faircloth herself was drunk and caused the crash by running across a poorly lit street.
Chojnowski highlighted photos that he said showed Faircloth ran into the side of Dwyer’s truck, and that Dwyer was unable to avoid her. “Mr. Dwyer’s vehicle happened to be in that space and that time when Jacquelyn Faircloth ran into the street and into the side of his truck,” Chojnowski said. “That was the cause of this accident.”
This is the second time the case has gone before a jury this year. In February, jurors declared themselves deadlocked after deliberating across three days, and following closings in which Avera requested more than $46 million in damages. CVN, which is streaming the current trial gavel-to-gavel, also covered the first trial.
The case is expected to go to the jury by the end of the week.
Email Arlin Crisco at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jacquelyn Faircloth is represented by Avera & Smith’s Mark Avera and Hinkle & Foran’s Donald Hinkle.
Main Street Entertainment is represented by Kubicki Draper’s Brian Chojnowski and Michael Carney.
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