When a drunk driver crossed the center line and hit Matt and Meredith Eastridge’s SUV on October, 29, 2010, he “changed their lives forever.” The young couple was seriously injured when their SUV was flipped and flew back 25 feet, and they lost the unborn son whom Meredith was carrying. Upon further investigation of the man who hit them that night, the couple discovered that he had left a bar visibly drunk. The Eastridges proceeded to file a lawsuit against the restaurant that served the man excessive alcohol. On Tuesday, they were awarded a $1.7 million settlement, according to KSEE 24 News.
The driver of the Volvo was killed on impact. Twenty-five-year-old David Canter Huffman had a blood-alcohol content of nearly three times the legal limit. Meredith, who was six months pregnant at the time of the crash, and her husband, Matt, sustained massive injuries from the crash. Both spent months in the hospital, undergoing several surgeries, recovering, and re-learning basic skills. Their unborn son did not survive.
Matt Eastridge spoke to The Charlotte Observer about that fateful night. “I was going 33 MPH,” Eastridge said. “I just saw headlights. My wife said, ‘What the heck is that?’ The car just hit us so quickly.” Huffman was going over 100 MPH. Eastridge speaks of the recovery time he and Meredith spent at the hospital. “I had to learn how to walk,” he said. “We were both in wheelchairs for Christmas. I couldn’t brush my teeth. I couldn’t take a bath. You can’t sneeze. It was at the point where we couldn’t cry – it hurt so much in our abs, we couldn’t cry.” Despite the pain of recovery, Eastridge confessed that the most pain was “when they learned they had lost their son.”
The couple later learned that Huffman had stopped at Eddie’s Place Restaurant and Bar on his way home from work. The Charlotte Observer reports that “on a video shown in court, [Huffman] can be seen toasting with the restaurant’s manager, who was celebrating his 30th birthday.” The Eastridge’s attorney argued that the bar over-served Huffman and is therefore responsible for his level of intoxication. According to The Daily Mail,North Carolina has legislation “that allows victims to sue establishments that provide alcohol to someone who is noticeably intoxicated.” Video footage from the restaurant showed Huffman, who had been served at least eight drinks, walking into a chair. Matt Eastridge said that he was “appalled and disgusted” to learn that Huffman had been served so much alcohol. “I felt anger and sadness for my son,” he said. “Innocent people were hurting because of a few people’s poor decisions. It really upset me that you could serve someone the equivalent of 15 drinks in two hours and think that they’re OK.”
Rick Pinto, an attorney for Eddie’s Place, reported to The Charlotte Observer that an investigation by the Mecklenburg Alcoholic Beverage Control Board found that the restaurant had not served alcohol to Huffman after he had become “visibly intoxicated.” The board also concluded the restaurant had not violated any state rules or regulations, adding that Eddie’s Place is “responsible, has been responsible and will continue to be responsible and comply with the law,” Pinto said. The jury, however, agreed with Eastridges’ lawyer, Charles Monnett, who stated that the restaurant “was at fault the moment it overserved Huffman.”
“My wife and I would give every dollar we got, and everything else we owned to be able to spend one day with our son,” Matt Eastridge said of their awarded settlement. The couple, who named their unborn son Elijah Dean, has since given birth to a little girl, whom they named Sloane Isabella. She is five months old.
Readers: Do you think it is right to hold restaurants and bars accountable for how much alcohol they serve to their patrons? Or should individuals be held responsible for their own actions?