The groom whose wife was struck and killed in a car crash in South Carolina on the couple’s wedding night has sued the alleged drunk driver and the bars she allegedly drank at before she got behind the wheel, according to court documents obtained by NBC News.
The lawsuit, filed Wednesday in South Carolina’s Ninth Judicial Circuit Court, accuses driver Jamie Komoroski, 25, and the owners of five South Carolina bars — Snapper Jacks, The Drop In, The Crab Shack, El Gallo Bar & Grill and Taco Boy, where Komoroski was employed — of negligence and wrongful death in the crash on Folly Beach on April 28 that killed Samantha Miller, 34, of Charlotte, North Carolina, as she and her husband, Aric Hutchinson, 36, were leaving their wedding reception in a golf cart.
The suit alleges that employees of the bars Komoroski allegedly visited the night of April 28 overserved her even though she was “noticeably and visibly intoxicated” and that she got behind the wheel after an alleged “booze-filled day of bar hopping.”
Hutchinson, the groom, was seriously injured, sustaining a brain injury and broken bones. A witness reported that Komoroski “was dazed and confused” at the scene and repeatedly said “I did nothing wrong” and that she wanted to go home, according to the incident report.
Hutchinson said Saturday at a memorial in Miller’s honor on Folly Beach that he is feeling “just as good as I can feel with the situation.” He filed the suit both as the representative of Miller’s estate and on his own behalf, the complaint says.
Danny Dalton, the attorney representing Miller’s family, said in a statement that the case “is about keeping our community safe from drunk drivers, and an important part of that effort is making sure the establishments we entrust with liquor licenses live up to their responsibility to serve alcohol responsibly.”
A spokesperson for the state Revenue Department’s alcohol beverage licensing bureau said the state does not require businesses to mandate training for alcohol servers but maintains a list of recommended training programs on its website.
Many states, including South Carolina, allow people to pursue civil actions against businesses that serve intoxicated customers who subsequently cause harm.
Komoroski was arrested and charged with one count of reckless homicide and three counts of felony DUI resulting in great bodily harm, according to online court records. She remains in custody.
Komoroski’s attorney, Christopher Gramiccioni, said in an email Thursday morning that he was not representing her in the civil case. He said in a statement: “We cannot fathom what the families are going through and offer our deepest sympathies. We simply ask that there not be a rush to judgment. Our court system is founded upon principles of justice and mercy and that is where all facts will come to light.”
The lawsuit also names Komoroski’s workplace, Taco Boy, and an unnamed supervisor of the Folly Beach restaurant as defendants, alleging the supervisor organized a night of drinking for employees before the tragedy unfolded and pressured Komoroski and other attendees to drink heavily. The complaint says the supervisor knew that “Komoroski had a previous history of alcohol abuse,” but it does not elaborate further. It also claims her employers allowed Komoroski “to simply leave and drive away after having consumed a dangerous amount of alcohol.”
Melissa Reardon, the communications director for Taco Boy, said in a statement that there was no “organized employee function around drinking” the day of the crash and that 16 hours of video and interviews with staff members show that Komoroski did not go to the restaurant that day. She added that it was “untrue” that Komoroski’s supervisor knew anything about an alleged “previous history of alcohol abuse,” as the complaint alleges.
Reardon said Komoroski had recently been hired and had trained for only two days before April 28, adding that her employment has been terminated.
“Our hearts are with the family and friends impacted by this tragedy,” Reardon said in the statement. “Beyond the many visitors we receive, Folly Beach is a close-knit community of locals and businesses, and we share in the heartbreak of this senseless loss.”
The complaint also alleges that the management of Taco Boy and the managements of the bars Komoroski allegedly visited that night failed to properly train employees to recognize signs of intoxication and prevent overserving.
Reardon said in her statement that restaurant staffers are “committed to serving alcohol responsibly” and are required to complete training programs to prevent overserving.
A representative for Snapper Jacks declined to comment and directed calls to a corporate phone number, which no one answered.
Representatives for The Drop In and El Gallo Bar & Grill declined to comment.
A representative for The Crab Shack could not immediately be reached for comment.
Allegations of an alcohol-fueled evening
The lawsuit alleges that Komoroski began her evening drinking at El Gallo Bar & Grill in Charleston before she drove 26 miles south to the city of Folly Beach, where she allegedly drank at three more local bars: The Drop In, The Crab Shack and Snapper Jacks.
“Over the course of several hours, Jamie Komoroski slurred and staggered her way through each of these bars, consuming an assortment of alcoholic beverages, including beer, tequila shots, shift shots of liquor on the house, etc.,” the suit alleges.
“By the end of the night, Jamie Komoroski was grossly and dangerously intoxicated,” it says.
Komoroski’s blood alcohol content was more than three times the legal limit in South Carolina, which is 0.08%, according to a toxicology report.
The incident report says she told a sergeant at the scene of the crash — on the 1200 block of East Ashley Avenue in Folly Beach — that she had two drinks that night, a beer and a “tequila pineapple an hour ago or so.” Komoroski refused to perform any field sobriety tests, and she was swaying as a sergeant asked her to stand up, according to the incident report.
A sergeant said he “smelled an odor of alcohol coming from her breath and person,” the incident report says, adding that Komoroski was driving 65 mph per hour in a 25 mph zone — and in the opposite direction of her home — at the time of the crash.
A quest for accountability
The lawsuit also names as defendants 20 unspecified “Jane Does” who may have contributed to the events.
Also named as plaintiffs, alongside Hutchinson, are Benjamin Garrett, Hutchinson’s brother-in-law, and his son, a minor, who were driving the newly married couple in a golf cart back to their accommodations for the evening and suffered “terrible and permanent injuries,” the complaint says.
Andrew Gilreath, the director of the Folly Beach Public Safety Department, has told The Associated Press that the golf cart had lights and was authorized to drive at night.
Hutchinson and the other plaintiffs are seeking a jury trial and unspecified damages, according to the lawsuit.
Dalton, the family’s attorney, said the family hopes filing the lawsuit will allow it to learn more about what happened in the hours and minutes before the fatal crash and who should be held responsible.
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