We represented Mary, a twenty-eight year old woman, who received a call on a Thursday evening from a girlfriend who was stranded and needed a ride home. On her way to pick up her friend, Mary ran out of gas on Washington Pike in East Knoxville and pulled her car to the side of the road. It was after midnight and Washington Pike, in this area, is lined by homes and no businesses.
Soon after pulling to the side of the road and turning on her emergency flashers, a man saw her and came out to offer his assistance. It turned out that he actually lived near where she had run out of gas and saw her dilemma as he was coming home from work. Like a Good Samaritan, he offered his assistance and returned to his home to get a container of gasoline. In the meantime, Mary’s friend found a ride to where Mary had run out of gas and kept her company by the car.
Soon, the neighbor returned and added gas to the car. It started, but before Mary and her friend left, they wanted to thank the man for his beyond-the-call-of-duty willingness to help a stranded motorist late at night. As they stood by the side of the road, a vehicle approached them at a very high rate of speed. It veered off the roadway, brushing Mary’s left shoulder and leg, and striking her friend and the Good Samaritan full on. The car continued even after impact, dragging both bodies several hundred feet down the road, in clear view of my client. The girlfriend and the kind man were fatally injured by the impact.
The motorist, who had struck Mary’s two companions and whose car brushed against her, sped away fleeing the scene of this tragic fatal incident, leaving our client standing in shock in the roadway. The driver of the vehicle was later found after attempting to avoid the police. He was convicted of driving under the influence of alcohol and vehicular homicide.
Eight months later, I filed suit for the traumatic emotional injury our client had suffered as she watched her friend and Good Samaritan die as a result of the gross negligence of an intoxicated driver. Overwhelmed by guilt, anxiety, and depression that arose of the incident, Mary took her own life several months after the suit was filed. According to her treating psychologist, Mary had been unable to cope or adjust to the fact that these two people had been killed by a string of events that began with receiving a phone call to help a stranded friend and then running out of gas on the way.
A large, but confidential, settlement was reached between Mary’s parents and the insurance company for the bar where the driver had been served while intoxicated, and the insurance company for the vehicle he was driving.
This case also brought the bartender oversight that happens at many bar establishments to the State’s immediate attention. The driver had been drinking at a local bar near the University of Tennessee campus and was still being served alcohol even though he was well past his limit. As a direct result of our client’s case, significant changes have been made in local law enforcement’s surveillance and enforcement of the Alcoholic Beverage Commission regulations that address serving alcohol to potentially intoxicated patrons.