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N.C. bar ordered to pay $1.7M in fatal DUI

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By USA Today
Saturday, Nov. 24, 2012, 8:00 p.m.
 

A heartbreaking drunken-driving crash in Charlotte that critically injured a young couple and killed their unborn child and the intoxicated driver spotlights a set of laws designed to prevent bars and restaurants from serving alcohol to intoxicated patrons.

Matt Eastridge and his wife, Meredith, who was six months pregnant, were driving home on Oct. 29, 2010, when police say David Huffman —who had a blood-alcohol content almost three times the legal limit and was driving more than 100 mph — slammed into their car. Huffman, 25, was leaving Eddie's Place Restaurant and Bar in south Charlotte, where he had been served at least 10 drinks.

This month, a Charlotte jury returned a $1.7 million verdict against Eddie's Place, finding that the restaurant was negligent in serving alcohol to a person whom it knew or should have known was intoxicated.

Matt Eastridge, 32, said he was “disgusted” when he learned that Huffman had been served “the equivalent of 15 drinks in two hours.”

Rick Pinto, attorney for Eddie's Place, said Huffman was served 10 drinks over a two-hour and 10-minute period. He said restaurant employees arranged a ride home for Huffman with another patron who lived in his apartment complex. “He accepted it and then went and drove his own car anyway,” Pinto said.

Pinto said an investigation by the Mecklenburg County Alcoholic Beverage Control Board found that Eddie's Place had not served alcohol to Huffman after he was “visibly intoxicated.”

Similar laws, known as dram-shop laws, are on the books in Pennsylvania and in some form in all but seven states.

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