Mobile Greyhound Racing has settled a lawsuit involving a fatal wreck caused by a customer who became intoxicated at the dog track shortly before the 2015 crash. The settlement on Oct. 13 came at the conclusion of a trial and before a Mobile County Circuit Court jury delivered a $12.4 million verdict against Mobile Greyhound Racing. Beasley Allen lawyers Graham Esdale, Kendall Dunson and Cole Portis represented the Plaintiff Katerial Wiggins whose finance’ died in the crash.
Mobile County Circuit Judge Wesley Pipes ruled on Oct. 15 that the settlement was binding and enforceable and did not allow the jury to read the verdict in open court. The case is based on Alabama’s Dram Shop Act. Willie McMillian drank alcohol at Mobile Greyhound Park on June 6, 2015. After leaving the dog track, he crashed his vehicle into the rear end of a car driven by Ms. Wiggins on Interstate 10 in Mobile County. Ms. Wiggins’ fiancé, Dominic Turner Sr., and their son, Dominic Turner Jr., were in the backseat of the vehicle. Dominic Turner Sr. was killed. Both Dominic Jr. and Ms. Wiggins were injured.
McMillian pleaded guilty to reckless murder and received a 15-year sentence.
Ms. Wiggins filed the lawsuit in 2016 against Mobile Greyhound Racing and other entities under the Dram Shop Act, which is intended to hold businesses liable if they sell alcohol to a person visibly intoxicated and that person later causes injury or death to another person.
This case had gone to the Alabama Supreme Court before the trial was held. Ms. Wiggins lost an earlier round. The trial judge granted a motion by Mobile Greyhound Racing for summary judgment and dismissed the case.
Ms. Wiggins appealed to the Alabama Supreme Court, which overturned that decision in May 2019, sending the case back to Mobile County Circuit Court for trial. Stephanie Monplaisir, a Beasley Allen lawyer, successfully handled the appeal for our firm.
After several days of trial, the jury began deliberating on Oct. 12. The next day, our lawyers reached a settlement with Mobile Greyhound Racing. Subsequently, the jury informed the court it had reached a verdict. Judge Pipes allowed the Beasley Allen lawyers to speak to the jurors about the verdict. The jurors told the lawyers what they had done and that they had already filled out a verdict form when the case was settled.
The settlement amount is confidential, but it was less than the amount of the verdict. The outcome of the case with the verdict and settlement sends the right message. Graham Esdale, one of the lawyers, says:
In my client’s mind, she has been through a whole lot and did not want to continue on with the appeals process. In hindsight, she may have thought it may be worth it for that kind of verdict. But she needed some finality. She was ready to move on. This has been five years since this accident happened. She needed some finality and something that would help provide for she and her young son.
Mobile Greyhound Racing is a limited liability partnership that is affiliated with the Poarch Band of Creek Indians. The lawsuit initially named the Poarch Band, Creek Indian Enterprises, and PCI Gaming as Defendants, but they were dismissed from the case.
Our firm has another very similar case set for trial in early January 2021 in Elmore County, Alabama, against Wind Creek Casino and Hotel, PCI Gaming and other Defendants. In that case, a drunk employee of Wind Creek crashed into the vehicle occupied by our clients.
This story appears in the November 2020 issue of The Jere Beasley Report. For more like this, visit the Report online and subscribe.