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Woof's Atlanta Sports Bar on Piedmont Road in Georgia settled under Georgia's Dram Shop Law for the insurance policy limits of $1M when a patron of the bar slammed into an Atlanta police officer, Osbert Beckles', parked patrol car in January, 2013 causing Beckles' serious injuries such as a traumatic brain injury, pelvic fracture, ruptured spleen, and other injuries. Fortunately, police officer Beckles' is making a miraculous recovery after suffering such severe injuries.

The drunk driver, Scott Eugene Walker, fled the scene after the wreck and was then apprehended, and showed a number of visible signs that he was highly intoxicated. Welker was charged in Fulton County with DUI, serious injury by vehicle, hit and run, reckless driving, failure to maintain lane, and other offenses as well. According to a spokesman for Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard, Welker's criminal case is pending. Welker's attorney in the criminal case is Atlanta Attorney Robert Chestney who was not available for comment.

It is interesting to note that the police report did not contain any information as to where Welker had been drinking prior to the accident. Therefore, in March 2013, the Plaintiff's Attorney's filed a personal injury suit in Cobb County State Court naming Welker and a John Doe defendant to represent the then-unknown bar.

The information that sealed the Dram Shop Case was found out only through discovery and the persistence of the Plaintiff. Once the information of Woof's Bar was discovered, in June, Plaintiff's attorneys filed an amended complaint naming Woof's and its parent company, H.H.S.T. Sporting Group, to the lawsuit, and accusing the bar of violating Georgia's Dram Shop Statute.

Dram Shop Cases in Georgia are very difficult to prove since the Plaintiff must show that: 1.) The Bar served a person they knew was intoxicated; and 2.) That the Bar knew that the Patron would be driving.

The Plaintiff in this case was able to prove the first prong by securing Welker's bar receipts as well as the computer print outs from the bar showing how many drinks they had served him that evening. The second prong was proven because the Bartender admitted that he knew Welker, that Welker lived in Cobb County, and that Welker would most likely be driving home that evening after drinking.

The Plaintiff was also able to prove that the bar was liable by using the Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) of Walker of 0.15% long after the wreck, which an expert was prepared to testify that the BAC was, therefore, approximately 0.20% (over twice the legal limit) when he actually hit Officer Beckles' vehicle.

This case was made even more difficult as the defense raised the issue that the Defendant, Woof's Bar, was only tendering policy limits due to intimidation basing its claim on the Georgia Supreme Court's 1992 decision in Southern General v. Holt, 262 Ga. 267. The Holt case says a plaintiff can issue a time-limited demand for the limits of an insurance policy and if the insurer declines and the plaintiff is later awarded more at trial, then the insurer may be liable for additional damages if it is determined that it acted in bad faith by not protecting the insured's interests. Masterson, who represented Woof's, said he would have advised his client to go trial "with or without" the demand.

Goldner, the Plaintiff's Attorney's response was that, "We don't view our demand in this case as beyond the pale by any measure," and furthermore stated that, "I think Holt demands exist for situations exactly like this, when any rational observer would agree that the value of a case is far in excess of policy limits."

Beckles' injuries were catastrophic and ongoing, Goldner said. The officer had accrued about $250,000 in medical bills so far, he said, and, "the damages continue to rise." The insurance company for Woof's wanted Officer Beckles further examined and the Plaintiff agreed and after such examination was completed, the insurance company for Woof's agreed to tender policy limits. As a result of all the evidence, in early May, the parties settled for a total of $1,050,000. The case is Beckles v. Welker, No. 2013A1143-6.

If you or a loved on has been injured in a drunk or impaired driving crash, then please Contact Us immediately as we are experts in these types of cases. These types of cases are not to be treated like normal vehicle accident cases for a number of reasons including, but not limited to, the ability for the Plaintiff to recover punitive damagesin these cases, and for the Plaintiff's ability to recover damages under the Dram Shop Law as illustrated in this case.

I also address Georgia's Dram Shop Law in my prior blog posts one and two stating that the Georgia Dram Shop law now applies to convenience stores as well. We are here to help you and get you the just compensation that you deserve if you or a loved one has been injured or killed by drunk or impaired driver so call us today for your free consultation!

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