Family sues Austin bar for fatal drunk driving crash - MyFoxAustin.com | KTBC Fox 7 | News, Weather, Sports

Family sues Austin bar for fatal drunk driving crash

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A Corpus Christi family says its Lustre Pearl's fault that their son was killed in an accident. The family claims bartenders over served their son's friend and now the family is suing for more than $1 million.

In the early morning hours of July 1, 2012, 25-year-old Madeline Rackley of Austin drove her car down a boat ramp into Lady Bird Lake after thinking it was an onramp to I-35.

Rackley's car went underwater, she and another passenger were able to escape, but their friend and back seat passenger, 25-year-old Jarrett Ryan Whittington did not escape and drowned.

Police said Rackley was drunk and charged her with intoxication manslaughter.

Now Whittington's family is filing a wrongful death lawsuit--not just against Rackley but against Lustre Pearl, the bar where Rackley and her friends were drinking before the crash. And the lawsuit doesn't stop there, not only are the bar's owners named but so are the bartenders who served Rackley's drinks.

Whittington's family who filed the suit last week, alleges the bartenders over served Rackley who was already intoxicated.

"The persons that operate these bars ought to tighten up their policies," Whittington's attorney, Kathryn Snapka said.

Snapka says all parties named in the suit broke the law.

"There's an obligation under the law that the bar and the bartenders should not serve someone alcohol who is clearly intoxicated," Snapka said.

While this is the first time Lustre Pearl has been named in a wrongful death suit for allegedly over serving an intoxicated person, it's not the first time a bar owned by Dunlap has been implicated.

The Clive Bar was named in a lawsuit filed by the father of Courtney Griffin. Griffin was run down by Gabrielle Nestande in May of 2011. Nestande admitted to consuming alcohol inside Clive Bar the night of the crash.

Dunlap released the following statement:

"As a mother and business owner, this is my worst nightmare, and I feel horrible for those who lost their son, brother and friend. My staff is trained and does a diligent job at being responsible with their service and identifying intoxicated persons, and we are devastated that this accident occurred."

"We're going to investigate to see if there was some responsibility there," Captain Harry Nanaos with the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission said.

Captain Nanaos says T.A.B.C. investigated Lustre Pearl following the incident. His team's findings have been turned over to the legal division of T.A.B.C. to determine if anyone with Lustre Pearl is responsible...

While the investigation remains under review and T.A.B.C. has not taken any action yet, It is possible the bar's operators could be revoked of their license.

"We take that very serious. People are losing lives," Nanaos said.

The Whittington's lawsuit is seeking more than $1 million in damages but Snapka says this is about more than just money.

"We certainly hope that this raises awareness of the owners and operators of establishments that sell alcoholic beverages that selling (to) obviously intoxicated customers can have deadly consequences," Snapka said.

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