Civil Procedure

Top state court reverses $37M default judgment, calls efforts to serve bar owner insufficient

A $37 million default judgment against a bar accused of overserving a patron was reversed Friday by Alabama’s top state court, which found that insufficient efforts were made to notify the owner of Club Volcano about the suit.

Daryl Williams was eventually noticed by publication. The family of Derric Edwin Rush, 35, a music minister who was reportedly killed in a traffic accident involving the Club Volcano patron as Rush was en route home from church, said they couldn’t locate him for personal service despite repeated attempts, according to the Associated Press.

Hare Wynn Newell & Newton represented the plaintiffs in the Jefferson County case. A 2013 law firm blog post about the jury verdict in the negligence case provides further details. It says the bar patron, an off-duty Birmingham police officer, was driving at 115 mph and had a blood-alcohol level of nearly twice the legal limit of .08 at the time of the 2009 crash.

An additional $3.25 million in damages was awarded by the jury in February 2013 against the police officer, James Lenoir Kendrick, who was convicted of reckless manslaughter over the accident and sentenced to 12 years, reported at the time of the jury verdict.

In addition to allegedly overserving Kendrick, the lawsuit contended, Club Volcano also were responsible for the conduct of Kendrick and a friend, who “consumed most of a 750 ml bottle of Crown Royal liquor while sitting in a parked vehicle in the parking lot on the premises of the defendant, Club Volcano.

“Both of these men became intoxicated,” the suit continued. “It is believed that this practice was known, condoned and allowed by Defendant Club Volcano.”

A Friday phone call to the Hare Wynn firm by the ABA Journal did not receive an immediate response.

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