Protecting Families from Drunk Driving: Holding Bars Accountable
The Trial attorneys of Hamilton Wingo were asked to help the surviving family of Patrick Beck, Sr., his wife Janet Beck, and daughter Leah Beck after they were all killed in a fiery collision when a drunk driver crashed into them on the right shoulder of Interstate Highway 20.
Before running onto the shoulder of the highway and killing the three family members, the drunk driver had become intoxicated at a prominent bar in Dallas/Fort Worth where staff knowingly served him the equivalent of more than 10 standard drinks—past the point of obvious intoxication according to the drink count alone—with the express permission of management.
Hamilton Wingo attorneys sued the drunk driver for causing the deaths of Patrick Beck, Sr., Janet Beck, and Leah Beck. They also sued the prominent bar where the drunk driver had been drinking prior, alleging that their over-service of alcohol and negligence was a proximate cause of the collision in question and the tragic deaths of three family members.
“Through our hard work and the diligence of the family, we were able to reach a resolution in this case that, while it won’t bring Leah back, Janet back, or Patrick Senior back, we will make sure that this sort of thing doesn’t happen again, and that other family members are protected when they’re driving home at night from drunk drivers that would have been overserved by bars that weren’t following the rules.”
– Chris Hamilton
A Horrific Tragedy
On June 6, 2019, twenty-three-year-old Leah Beck was driving home and got a flat tire on the side of I-20 in Arlington, Texas.
She pulled her car over onto the side of the road, called for a tow truck, and called her parents to come to pick her up while she was waiting.
Patrick Beck, Sr. and his wife Janet, both retired career military members, left their Grand Prairie house and drove to Leah’s spot in Arlington. They pulled in behind her, intending to do what they could to help.
Patrick Senior exited his vehicle and was walking around on the shoulder side, up toward the vehicle, when a drunk driver veered off onto the shoulder, rear-ending the vehicles. The impact resulted in everyone being engulfed in flames.
According to the Tarrant County Medical Examiner’s Office, Patrick Beck, Sr. 55, and Janet Beck, 48, died at the scene.
Leah Beck, 23, died at 3:23 a.m. June 7 in an emergency room at Medical City Arlington Hospital. A 2015 graduate of South Grand Prairie High School, she worked at a warehouse and held college plans and a career in cosmetology.
A Pattern of Overserving Alcohol
The surviving family members hired the Dallas-based personal injury trial attorneys of Hamilton Wingo to represent them in the matter. Hamilton Wingo immediately got to work investigating what had happened.
“When the family first came to us, there was a lot that we had to sort out,” said Chris Hamilton, owner and partner of Hamilton Wingo. “There were multiple different family members that had not been in communication for extended periods of time. There were children of different marriages. There were parents. And not necessarily everyone had been on the same page after this horrific tragedy. However, we were able to bring together to get justice in this case and to investigate what had happened.”
When the trial firm dug in, they never could have imagined what they would find.
The drunk driver, who had killed three innocent people on I-20 that night, was a 29-year-old teacher who rarely drank.
How did we end up in this situation?
When investigated further, Hamilton Wingo found out that a prominent bar with a history and pattern of overserving alcohol had served the teacher an extraordinary amount of alcohol that night, put him on this road, and set this catastrophe in motion.
The surviving family members were represented by Hamilton Wingo, who filed suit against the drunk driver and the prominent restaurant and bar who served him.
Hamilton Wingo attorneys claimed that the bar was negligent in serving and continuing to serve the drunk driver when it was apparent that he was obviously intoxicated to the extent that he presented a clear danger to himself and others. They claimed the bar failed to train employees or have policies and procedures to discourage the overserving of drunk patrons and encouraged overserving by rewarding servers who sold the most alcohol.
Hamilton Wingo attorneys showed this wasn’t an isolated case, and the bar had a history of overserving its patrons.
Fortunately, Hamilton Wingo was able to successfully resolve the case with a favorable confidential settlement.
“Through our hard work and the diligence of the family, we were able to reach a resolution in this case that, while it won’t bring Leah back, Janet back, or Patrick Senior back, we will make sure that this sort of thing doesn’t happen again, and that other family members are protected when they’re driving home at night from drunk drivers that would have been overserved by bars that weren’t following the rules,” said Hamilton. “This was a significant case that helped to show that bars will be held accountable when they overserve people and cause the deaths of innocent passengers and members of the public on the road.”