Columbia, SC- The family of a young South Carolina girl who was killed in a drunk driving accident is suing two bars that served the responsible despite his being “severely” intoxicated. Emma Longstreet’s family filed their lawsuit this week as tough DUI legislation named in her honor
In the lawsuit, first reported by the Associated Press, Longstreet’s family accuses the two bars of negligence in serving a man too many drinks the night before he caused the fatal drunken driving accident on New Year’s Day 2012. The collision killed 6 year-old Emma Longstreet, and injured several other family members along with a nearby driver.
The Longstreet’s lawsuit relied heavily on sworn statements by Billy Hutto, 29, who is now serving a 10 year jail sentence after pleading guilty to assault and felony DUI.
In his statements, Hutto said he spent New Year’s Eve drinking at a few bars in Columbia. He started at one bar that was not named in the suit. He then walked to another bar The Big Ugly, which is one of the bars named in the suit, and was served two drinks.
Hutto said he was severely intoxicated” after he left The Big Ugly, and drove to a third bar.
“I was drunk when I arrived and even more drunk when I left,” Hutto said according to the AP. “There is no question that the people serving me the beers knew I was severely drunk and in no condition to drink any more alcohol.”
After drinking at the third bar, The Loose Cockaboose, Hutto had three more drinks before he went home with friends, who drove his car, and slept for a few hours.
Once he woke up, he drove home and was still too drunk to realize he was speeding and did not notice he ran the red-light where he collided with Longstreet family van.
Hutto said bartenders at all three places served him even though he was obviously drunk.
Hutto was also charged with DUI in 2009.
Driving under the influence is an individual’s choice, but people who are heavily intoxicated often make bad decisions and are not aware of the consequences. This suit gives rise to the question: Who is responsible when a drunken driver causes a fatal accident? Ultimately it is the driver who made the bad decision, but serving an already “severely intoxicated” person has its consequences, as this suit shows.
In similar cases in other states these types of negligence suits have been successful, especially if the plaintiffs can prove the bar knowingly served a person who is very intoxicated and unable to make good decisions.
Emma Longstreet’s death inspired legislation that, if passed, will make South Carolina’s DUI laws tougher for first-offenders.
DUI offenders, even though we may disagree with their actions, have the right to defend themselves in court. A DUI charge is far more serious than many people realize so it’s critical that anyone facing this charge retains a DUI attorney to work on their defense.