Cisero’s sued regarding drunken driving fatality
February 17, 2012
The family of a man killed by a drunk driver is suing Cisero’s Nightclub and Ristorante for over-serving alcohol to a customer.
Under Utah’s dram shop laws, the family of Kamas resident Jose Pineda, 23, is alleging the employees’ at the Park City restaurant and nightclub gave alcohol to an inebriated patron who later crashed his car, killing himself and Pineda.
According to Third District Court documents, on February 12, 2011, Orem resident Rick Ryan Hill, 35, had drinks at Cisero’s before operating a vehicle. While driving eastbound on State Road 248 in Park City, Hill crossed the median into oncoming traffic and struck Pineda who was traveling westbound. Both men died at the scene. Hill had multiple previous driving-while-intoxicated convictions and his vehicle was required to be equipped with an interlock device.
Michael Katz, the lawyer for Pineda’s estate, said that Hill had been drinking at Cisero’s "all day" prior to the 8:30 p.m. accident and the servers there should have cut him off and not allowed him to drive.
"Under Utah’s dram shop laws, Cisero’s is strictly liable for giving beverages to someone and then having them be in an accident," Katz said. "He had been drinking there for some time and they should have known he was consuming too much."
Katz said Pineda left behind a small child, mother and brother and the settlement money will go to support them.
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"We are suing Cisero’s for $500,000, the maximum allowed under Utah law," he said. "They are required to have dram shop insurance and we will probably settle out of court. These kinds of cases never go to court because the clubs are not anxious to have them tried. Jurors don’t like the idea of restaurants over-serving patrons."
Cisero’s owner Steve McComb said his workers did absolutely nothing wrong and that Hill should not have been in a bar in the first place.
"We barely served Mr. Hill anything," McComb said. "Right after the accident, the Utah Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control and Utah Highway Patrol did its investigation and found we had done nothing wrong. At the time, we determined we had served him a beer and a shot I think. That was it. He could have had alcohol in his truck or a six pack outside in the snow, that happens and we cannot control it."
McComb added that this is the first time an incident like this has happened in his 30 years of working in the nightclub business and that all of his employees are certified to stop serving someone when they appear intoxicated.
"We have a standing policy that any employee who over-serves someone is fired and in this incident our employees did nothing wrong. This man obviously had a problem and there was no way for us to know this," he said.
As of Thursday, McComb had not been served with the lawsuit. Katz said they filed the lawsuit sooner than they would have liked because the statue of limitations was running out. Katz said they are also filing a lawsuit against Hill’s estate.
Utah’s dram shop laws
Under Utah’s dram shop statute, bars and restaurants can be considered liable for injuries to any third person resulting from intoxication if they served alcohol to an intoxicated person, or to the point of intoxication or impairment. An employer is liable for the actions of their employees. The establishment cannot be sued for more than $500,000 per person or $1,000,000 per incident and must have dram shop insurance. Dram shop is a legal term referring to a place where alcohol is served.