Five Points bar to pay $975K settlement in DUI fatality
COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - One settlement was approved against a Five Points bar, while another lawsuit is pending against a man charged with felony DUI after the parents of a 24-year-old man say their son died a wrongful death.
At 4 a.m. May 5, Justin Timmerman died while crossing the road at Harden and Greene streets when a 2009 Land Rover driven by William Holt Carlen, 24, of Columbia, hit Timmerman and dragged him a half block down the road before stopping his vehicle, according to civil and criminal court records. Carlen's blood alcohol level was .22, which is three times the legal limit for South Carolina, and he was reported driving faster than the posted 25 mph limit.
Because Timmerman had the right-of-way at the time of the accident, his father George Timmerman filed a lawsuit against Carlen for the motor vehicle accident. From this lawsuit, Timmerman's attorney Richard Harpootlian filed a subpoena against Jake's Bar & Grill in Five Points to get credit and debit card receipts for Carlen and all video cameras from the facility between 10 p.m. May 4 to 4 a.m. May 5 because Carlen was drinking at the bar prior to the accident, court records said.
Jake's Bar & Grill turned over footage from 16 cameras following a court order, after the restaurant's attorney Shannon Bobertz said going through 96 hours of video was burdensome to her client.
Because of pending litigation, Harpootlian could not release the video footage to WIS.
From there, Timmerman filed a lawsuit against the bar to say that its employees "should have known he was intoxicated, but continued to serve him alcohol," court documents said, which violates a state law of selling alcohol to intoxicated people.
Court documents reported the bar's video footage showed Carlen arriving at the business at 11:27 p.m. May 4 and staying until 1:30 a.m. May 5. He then returned at about 2 a.m. May 5 and stayed for 14 minutes. Carlen's tab at the bar totaled about $74, but he was reported to have received about $200 worth of alcohol before leaving the business, the court reports said.
WIS previously reported that Carlen pleaded guilty to another DUI charge March 2, 2012, following a September 2011 arrest. He was sentenced to 30 days in jail or ordered pay $1,000. His license was also suspended. At the time of the May 5 accident, Carlen was also charged with driving under suspension and failure to surrender license.
Jake's Bar & Grill denied allegations made by Timmerman and demanded proof. However, months after the lawsuit was filed, the business and Timmerman reached an agreement in the amount of a $975,000 settlement, which was approved by the court in December.
The lawsuit against Carlen is still pending, as well as his felony DUI charge. He was released from jail May 7 after paying 10 percent or $25,000 of a $250,000 bond.
Carlen has since filed a lawsuit against the United Services Automobile Association (USAA) after the company said it would not pay anything following Carlen's accident. The lawsuit states he is covered under the insurance policy in his father's name, James Carlen. This suit is also still pending.
There is also a third pending lawsuit filed by Timmerman against Carlen's father, former USC football coach James "Jim" Carlen III, for wrongful death to seek damages in Justin's death.
Jim Carlen died July 22 at age 79, so the lawsuit is now toward Carlen's mother, Meredith. Timmerman said the vehicle Carlen drove was registered in his father's name and credit and debit cards Carlen used to buy alcohol were in Jim Carlen's name. Court documents state that because of Carlen's prior DUI, Timmerman said his parents were aware of their son's addiction to alcohol, but still entrusted a vehicle and money to him that he used to support his habit.
On Jan. 14, Timmerman filed an offer of judgment for $1.3 million in the case. Meredith has yet to respond to the offer.
WIS contacted all parties involved in the lawsuit Wednesday, but received no comments from either side.
William Carlen's next court date is Feb. 18.
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