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News - All - 24 Aug 2019
News Item 63 of 4671
Miscellaneous: 24 Aug 2019
Drunk driver, bar and crash victim share liability in $9.5m case, judge rules
It was supposed to be a fun night out for a group of friends to watch a Stanley Cup playoff game at a Fonthill bar back in 2012.
|The passenger in a June 7, 2012 crash in Fonthill was left permanently disabled from the collision after suffering a serious skull fracture that led to an acquired brain injury. - Shane Murphy , Special to The Hamilton Spectator |
Then the bad decisions started to pile on top of each other one by one, leading to a shattered life and nearly $10 million in consequences.
After a 39-day trial in Hamilton court, a Superior Court justice has awarded $9.5 million in damages to a passenger in a car that slammed sideways into a tree in the early hours of June 7, 2012.
But Justice Gerald E. Taylor ruled the drunk driver of the car, the bar and the crash victim himself were all partially liable for the tragic events of the night.
Wesley Hummel, the passenger, was left permanently disabled from the crash after suffering a serious skull fracture that led to an acquired brain injury.
Hummel suffers from permanent impairment of his vision, serious seizures and some cognitive and speech deficiencies. Hummel has been left permanently unemployable since the crash and he requires an attendant around the clock because he can't be left alone.
The fateful night began at Hummel's residence in Fonthill. His friend, Philip Jantzi, finished work in Hamilton around 5 p.m., stopped first at his St. Catharines' home, picked up a six-pack of beer and headed to Hummel's place to join some friends.
After a couple of beers, the group of six went to the nearby All Star Tap & Grillhouse around 9:30 p.m. to watch the hockey game.
One of the bar's features was a special known as "12 for 12" — 12 six-ounce cups of beer served on a tray for $12.
Over the course of the next three hours or so, the group ordered four of the trays. The judge ruled the bar made no attempt to track the number of drinks each person consumed, monitor the condition of anyone in the group or how they planned to get home from the bar.
Jantzi was supposed to be the group's designated driver, but the judge ruled that over the course of the evening, Jantzi consumed the equivalent of about a dozen bottles of five per cent strength beer before driving the group back to Hummel's house around 1 a.m.
By that point, a pharmacology expert testified, Jantzi's blood alcohol concentration was approximately 0.240, or 240 milligrams of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood — three times the legal limit of 0.08 for driving.
A couple of members of the group testified that Jantzi was described as a "pro drunk driver."
The friends returned to Hummel's residence and had some homemade wine. Hummel needed some cigarettes, so Jantzi drove him and another friend to a gas bar.
On the way back to the house, Jantzi lost control of the vehicle at a T intersection, then swerved sharply at the last second before smashing into a tree.
Hummel spent three months in hospital and, at one point, there was a discussion about removing him from life support.
The judge ruled that Jantzi and the All Star bar were 75 per cent liable for the accident.
Of that liability, the judge determined that 80 per cent of the responsibility fell to Jantzi and the other 20 per cent fell to the bar.
Jantzi pleaded guilty to impaired driving causing bodily harm.
The judge ruled Hummel was 25 per cent responsible because he failed to wear a seatbelt and for getting in a vehicle he knew would be operated by an impaired driver.
The judge also ruled the bar was 20 per cent responsible for Hummel's negligence because he had been overserved alcohol and was himself impaired at the time.
The judge also awarded a total of $450,000 in compensation divided between Hummel's parents and four siblings.
The lawyers representing Hummel, Jantzi and the All Star bar could not be reached for comment.
Steve Buist The Hamilton Spectator/The Record/Twitter/AA
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