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Drunk Driving Accident Results in a $16.7 Million Settlement

Written by Tom Crosley
Car Accidents, Drunk Driving Accidents, Vehicle Wrecks

Photo credit: jpalinsad360 / Foter / CC BY-SA

Abusing alcohol, under any circumstances, can result in tragic consequences for everyone involved, and operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated is one of the worst decisions an individual can make. A recently-settled case involving a senior living facility employee illustrates how it only takes one bad decision to result in severe tragedy.

On August 24, 2103, 37-year-old Samuel Dale Graham was heading north on Texas 36 with his wife and two children. At the same time, Alisia Prueitt, a certified nurse aide employed at Senior Living Properties, was driving south. Intoxicated, Prueitt crossed the center line of the highway, hitting Graham’s SUV head on – with deadly results.

Graham was fatally injured in front of his wife, seven-year-old daughter, and ten-year-old son. His family members were also severely injured as a result of the crash.

The worst part of this story? Prueitt was sent home from work earlier that day because she appeared to have “been drinking, smelled of alcohol, and was staggering around the nursing home,” according to court documents. Senior Living Properties knowingly allowed her to drive herself home from her place of employment, despite the fact she had obviously been drinking.

During the proceedings, it was discovered that in May of 2013, Prueitt had also been impaired while working at Senior Living Properties. She was so impaired that she was unable to walk or to perform her job functions. According to court documents, she actually dropped an elderly resident. During that particular incident, another employee was instructed to drive her home. However, Senior Living Properties did not follow its policies to test Prueitt for substances to determine if disciplinary action, including possible termination, should occur.

Later, at the time of the accident, Prueitt had a BAC of .42%, which is more than five times the legal limit. She is now serving an 18-year sentence for intoxication manslaughter and intoxication assault in the Texas Department of Corrections.

Prueitt was held liable for her negligence since she knowingly operated a vehicle under the influence of alcohol, and a jury found her 35 percent at fault. The main defendant, Senior Living Properties, was held liable for gross negligence as a result of allowing an employee they knew to be intoxicated to drive and for not following their own established procedures for substance abuse testing and employee termination. The jury found Senior Living Properties to be 65 percent at fault, according to court documents. Included in the award was a punitive damage amount of $5 million against the senior living facility.

The Star Telegram News spoke with Attorney Laura Brown, who said “It would have been a very simple thing to prevent this employee from driving. Instead, Senior Living Properties… chose to disregard its policies and its basic obligations to protect the public because they didn’t pay their nurse aides well, they were understaffed, and they wanted to have this employee return to work another day.”

Sharla, Mr. Graham’s widow, and his family were represented by attorney Laura Brown of Williams & Brown LLP. They were awarded $16.7 million in personal injury damages due to the wrongful death of their loved one.

Unfortunately, the monetary award or Prueitt’s punishment cannot bring back Mr. Graham. His children will forever be without their loving father, his wife will no longer have her husband, and the town of Hamilton, TX lost an engaged, vibrant youth pastor and valued member of the community.

The sad truth is that over 1000 Texans die each year in alcohol-related auto accidents, and approximately 1 out of 3 highway deaths involve alcohol here in our state. Nationally, only 1 % of the 112 million self-reported situations of alcohol-impaired driving of U.S. adults result in arrests each year, according to the CDC. Statistically speaking, there is a more than a likely chance you’ll end up encountering a situation where a driver of an automobile is intoxicated at some point in your lifetime.

Crosley Law Firm has extensive experience in dealing with drunk driving cases. We do everything in our power to hold the drunk driver accountable for the pain, suffering, and injury they have caused. We work closely with law enforcement officials to obtain police reports, with experts in the field of toxicology and accident reconstruction to work out every detail of your case, and with doctors to make sure you receive the care and documentation of your injuries necessary for your case.

Like Laura Brown, both Thomas A. Crosley and Andrew Rodriguez of the Crosley Law Firm have been distinguished in the National Trial Lawyers: Top 100 list. This exclusive list is by invitation-only and is comprised of the premier trial attorneys in each state. Membership is offered only to those attorneys who “demonstrate superior qualifications of leadership, reputation, influence, stature, and public profile.”

If you have been involved in a life-altering drunk driving accident, please contact Crosley Law Firm today.

References:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2015, January 13). Impaired driving: Get the facts. CDC. Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/Motorvehiclesafety/impaired_driving/impaired-drv_factsheet.html 

Graham v. Senior Living Properties, LLC. Case No. 067-269110-13; Tarrant County District Court of Texas.

Mothers against Drunk Driving. (2015). Texas: Drunk driving. MADD. Retrieved from http://www.madd.org/drunk-driving/state-stats/Texas.html

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