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Restaurant, drunken driver pay $3.75M to settle dram shop suit

By Phillip Bantz, South Carolina Lawyers Weekly

A well-known restaurant chain has paid a $3.25 million settlement to a road crew worker who alleged that he was the victim of an over-served patron. The patron paid the worker an additional $500,000 to resolve the case.

The worker, Calvin Singleton, alleged in a dram shop action filed in Charleston County that P.F. Chang’s China Bistro Inc. in Mount Pleasant served 10 liquor drinks, many of which were double pours, to Ralph Turnage, over the course of four hours in June 2014.

Turnage, a regular at P.F. Chang’s, which closed at 11 p.m., drank with several of the restaurant’s managers until about 1 a.m., according to a settlement report from Singleton’s attorneys.

They withheld the identities of the restaurant and its attorneys, but the information was publicly available through court filings.

The suit alleged that the side mirror of Turnage’s vehicle clipped Singleton’s head while he worked on a road paving crew on Chuck Dawley Boulevard. Turnage fled after the incident but was later arrested and ultimately pleaded guilty to first offense DUI in 2015.

Charleston attorneys David Yarborough, William Applegate and Douglas Jennings of the Yarborough Applegate Law Firm and Andy Savage of the Savage Law Firm represented Singleton.

They stated in a settlement report that the bar’s surveillance video recorded Turnage drinking on the night in question. They also stated that the managers, who were later fired, testified that the restaurant had a culture of allowing excessive drinking and comping drinks for loyal customers.

“They also testified that they had received very little in terms of training with regard to safe alcohol policies and procedures and that there was very little emphasis on safe alcohol service the restaurant,” the report stated.

But an attorney for P.F. Chang’s, Randell Stoney Jr. of Barnwell Whaley Patterson & Helms in Charleston, blamed Turnage for Singleton’s injuries.

“The individual who was operating the vehicle that injured the man is certainly the most culpable and unfortunately my client, P.F. Chang’s, got pulled into the mix,” he said.

P.F. Chang’s also contended that Turnage was not visibly intoxicated when he left the bar and that the managers who served him were acting outside the course and scope of their employment because the business had closed for the evening. The restaurant also disputed the extent of Singleton’s injuries.

He sustained facial fractures, dental trauma and body abrasions, according to his attorneys. They reported that he experiences frequent headaches and chronic pain in his face, shoulder, leg and lower back along with dizziness, decreased hearing, a diminished sense of smell and difficulty concentrating.

He has $150,000 in medical bills and his experts estimated that he would have to spend between $1.2 and $1.7 million on future health costs.

 

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J. Brooks Davis
802 Coleman Blvd., #200
Mt. Pleasant, SC, 29464-4048 USA
843.225.2255