Construction worker killed by drunk driver coming from Concord bar; who is legally responsible?

Construction worker killed by drunk driver coming from Concord bar; who is legally responsible?

CONCORD, N.C. (WBTV) - Over the weekend, a construction worker was hit and killed by a drunk driver on Interstate 85. Police say the driver left a bar in Concord before getting behind the wheel and changing one person’s life forever.

It happened near Concord Mills.

The drunk driver – a 22-year-old woman, Danyel Middleton – also hurt three other workers. Middle is charged with felony death by motor vehicle. She was seen shaking before a judge on Monday.

Now Alcohol Law Enforcement and Concord Police are investigating if Middleton was overserved at the Carolina Ale House bar before getting behind the wheel.

“At the end of the day it’s our job. If somebody comes in here and they are out of their mind it’s on us to know,” said Harper McClung, a local bartender.

McClung has been a bartender for the past four years. He quickly learned the signs of someone who should no longer be served.

“It’s easy. It’s the same signs you were told in school. That doesn’t change," said McClung.

He says it’s important to point out how stopping people from driving drunk is part of every bartender’s legal responsibility.

“Everybody’s usually accepting of you stepping and saying I think you’ve come to that point," said McClung.

Mark Jetton is a local attorney with Jetton and Meredith.

He says there are a set of laws, called “dram shop laws”, that can keep anyone serving alcohol to people accountable for the conduct of their guests.

This can apply to restaurants, bars, or “hosts." For example, if you host a party at your home, you can be held liable for the conduct of your guests if they are overserved.

“The more people that have a responsibility, there is more checks and balances and the overall population is safer," said Jetton.

With regard to the tragic crash near Concord Mills Mall, police say the accident happened in a well-lit area. Signs were up.

Concord Police say Middleton had just left Carolina Ale House when she crashed into four construction workers.

One person, 50-year-old man Socorro Martinez, was killed.

Based on the laws, Jetton says the liability could be on both her and the bar itself.

“Obviously be interested in Ms. Middleton and the insurance she may or may not have as well as Carolina Ale House and what their conduct was and it will come down to the facts of what went on prior to her leaving the bar," said Jetton.

Breweries say they have precautions in place beyond just watching to not overserve anyone – that it’s all about safety.

“We’ll usually offer promotions with Lyft and Uber so we know people can get home safely,” said McClung. “They could show their receipt they were at Town then they would get 50 percent off their ride home as an incentive to not get in your car and drive home.”

Jetton says the laws in place push safety before profit so if bars come up with ways to back up the law it’s a win-win for everyone. McClung agrees.

“Obviously we’re concerned from a legal standpoint but at the end of the day, we want them to have an awesome time and then they leave and get home safely. That’s our responsibility," said McClung.

Middleton was in court Monday. WBTV was there and our crew says they saw her physically shaking - seemingly in disbelief.

She’s currently under a $1 million dollar bond.

Alcohol Law Enforcement says it will continue to investigate to get to the bottom of whether she was overserved. They are reviewing video and conducting interviews with witnesses.

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