Drunken Driving Victim Reaches $6.5M Settlement

By Miriam Rozen

The Connecticut Law Tribune

Date: August 31, 2016

A plaintiff in a dram shop litigation, who will need constant convalescent care for the rest of his life after a car collision with a drunken driver, reached a nearly $6.5 million settlement with multiple defendants, according to his lawyer, Timothy Brignole of Brignole Bush & Lewis in Hartford.

The deal represents a rare instance of a settlement in a dram shop lawsuit netting more than $250,000, the limit for damages in such litigation under Connecticut state law if claims are based solely on negligence allegations, Brignole said.

What lifted the settlement sum?

His client, Eric Mears, alleged recklessness against the woman who drove head-on into Mears in 2014, and Chuck's Steak House, her employer and the establishment where she had been drinking before the accident, Brignole said.

According to Mears' complaint, the woman's co-workers would have easily recognized that she was already drunk when they began serving her more alcohol.

In October 2015, a state court in New Britain found the woman guilty of second-degree assault with a motor vehicle.

Criminal defense lawyers at New Haven's Pattis & Smith, the firm that represents her, according to court records, did not return a call seeking a comment.

The corporate owner of Chuck's Steak House agreed to pay the lion's share of the settlement, $6 million; the woman's insurer paid $250,000; and another defendant, Asian Bistro, where the woman also allegedly drank on the evening of the collision, paid another $225,000, according to Brignole.

Jeff Apuzzo of Farmington, who represents the steak house, and Jay Huntington of Regnier Taylor Curran & Eddy in Hartford, who represents Asian Bistro, did return calls for this article. Christopher Connelly of Connelly and Johnson in Glastonbury, who represents the driver in the collision, declined to comment.

Brignole expressed satisfaction that he secured the best deal for his client, but remained cognizant of the limitations for any plaintiff lawyer under the circumstances.

"There is never enough that can be done for those people who are seriously injured," he said. "No amount of money will ever compensate for this outcome. This was a Pyrrhic victory for Eric Mears."