An Athens resident who was injured in a hit-and-run incident in 2018 has filed a lawsuit in Athens County Common Pleas Court against the J Bar and the owner of the North Court Street bar, for allegedly over-serving alcoholic drinks to the man who allegedly hit her with his vehicle.
The suit filed by Athens resident Tessa Evanosky late last month alleges that a J Bar bartender on Feb. 19, 2018, served Samuel D. Conner, 23 of Glouster, three drinks despite Conner looking visibly intoxicated. This was shortly before he left the bar, drove his vehicle (a Hummer H3) down Columbus Road, and allegedly struck Evanosky while she was riding her bicycle.
Separate from this lawsuit, Conner has not yet been charged in relation to the hit-and-run incident. Athens County Assistant Prosecutor Meg Saunders explained Wednesday that her office has received the case file from the Athens Police Department on the incident, and said that her office is reviewing the case for possible indictment. Conner pleaded guilty on Feb. 15 last year in a completely separate case to a first-degree misdemeanor charge of having physical control of a vehicle while under the influence, with 30 days of jail suspended as long as he completed a driver intervention program, a 15-day drive suspension, and not violate any local, state or federal laws for two years.
The suit filed against the J Bar and its owner David Cornwell alleges that the bar violated Ohio’s Dram Shop Act of 2017 and that Cornwell was “negligent” in the bar’s training and supervision of its bartenders.
Cornwell didn’t respond to a request for comment sent Monday.
The suit filed on behalf of Evanosky alleges that Conner drank multiple other alcoholic beverages in Court Street establishments prior to arriving at the J Bar, which is located at the corner of North Court and State streets.
Evanosky received a concussion, a serious dent/laceration on her head and an assortment of serious injuries to her body that required surgeries after she was allegedly struck by Conner’s hummer, according to the lawsuit. She was MedFlighted to a hospital in Columbus.
The suit filed by Athens and Chicago-based attorney Mike Fradin alleges that the J Bar was in violation of the Dram Shop Act, which states the following: “a person has a cause of action against a (liquor) permit holder or an employee of a permit holder for personal injury, death or property damage caused by the negligent actions of an intoxicated person occurring off the premises or away from a parking lot under the permit holder’s control only when both of the following can be shown by a preponderance of the evidence”:
• That the permit holder or employee knowingly sold an intoxicating beverage to a noticeably intoxicated person, or a person in violation of Ohio’s underage drinking laws.
• And that the person’s intoxication “proximately caused” the personal injury, death or property damage.
Fradin argues in the lawsuit that this is precisely what happened in the case of Conner, contending that the bar “negligently allowed him to exit the bar and drive home.”
The suit alleges that Cornwell did not properly train his employees to recognize the “signs of overly-intoxicated patrons” and to prevent the “over-service of alcoholic beverages,” nor when it is “unsafe for a patron to drive” after being served.
The suit asks for damages in an amount to be established at trial to compensate Evanosky for her injuries, as well as punitive damages and attorney’s