Griffin’s mother files lawsuit against Nestande, local bar

Griffin’s mother files lawsuit against Nestande, local bar

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A little more than two weeks after a Travis County jury refused to sentence Gabrielle Nestande to prison for the hit and run death of Courtney Griffin, the victim's mother is taking civil action.

A wrongful death lawsuit was filed against Nestande and the Clive Bar Monday. The lawsuit is seeking more than a million dollars in damages, from the former legislative aide and the bar.

It is asking for another jury trial but Laurie Griffin's attorney says they hope the civil verdict will finally be the justice they have been looking for.

Suzanne Kaplan says when she first heard the sentencing from the criminal trial, "it was appalling.

Kaplan says she was in disbelief when a jury Nestande to ten years' probation last month. That sentence came after the same jury found Nestande guilty of criminally negligent homicide.

Despite the surveillance video and bar tabs documenting Nestande drinking at the Clive Bar, the jury refused to convict her on intoxication manslaughter, manslaughter, and failure to stop and render aid.

Kaplan says the Clive Bar served an intoxicated person right before Nestande hit and killed 30-year-old, Courtney Griffin, as she was walking home in West Austin in May 2011.

"The family has felt that there was not justice done in the criminal trial, we heard all the evidence and we saw how Gabrielle Nestande was intoxicated, the bar over served her and the family felt this was one way to finally get justice for Courtney."

Kaplan says they are hopeful for a better outcome since civil cases have a much lower burden of proof. In this case, Kaplan says the jury only needs to find that Nestande and the Clive Bar are more likely than not responsible for Courtney Griffin's death. The state in the criminal trial had to prove beyond a reasonable doubt. The jury has to decide how much responsibility both parties bear.

The suit claims negligence and a list of damages that include mental anguish in the past and future, and costs and expenses for psychological treatment. The attorney says this civil case is sending the right message to the community.

"The outrage in the community, the number of people who has come out and said wow even the brief amount of evidence I was shown on the news, I can tell that maybe the jury got it wrong."

The Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission is taking another look at its investigation into the Clive Bar. It was suspended because they didn't have any leads. But after the trial brought up evidence, the TABC could re-activate its case.

The owner of the Clive Bar has not returned our call for comment. We also talked to the victim's father, Bart Griffin, Monday. He says he is not part of this complaint but is consulting attorneys about possible legal action against Nestande.

One of Nestande's attorneys has no comment.

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