Lawsuit targets St. Matthews bar in deadly DUI case, reignites liability debate

Gerstle's in St Matthews
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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WHAS11) -- Employees at a St. Matthews bar 'knew or should have known' a man they served alcohol to was already drunk before police said the man caused a deadly crash, a new lawsuit against the bar claims.

The lawsuit, filed in Jefferson County Circuit Court last month and obtained by the WHAS 11 News i-Team, names the suspected driver in the crash, Brad Caraway, and Gerstle's Place, a bar on Frankfort Avenue. It was filed on behalf of the estate of Shanae Moorman, a former University of Louisville cheerleader, who died in the August 6, 2016 crash.

The suit came nearly one year after the early morning crash near where the Gene Snyder Freeway meets Interstate 64.

According to records in Caraway's criminal case file, police said Caraway walked away from the scene after the vehicle flipped over, pinning Moorman. Officers found Caraway barefoot and shirtless, smelling of alcohol and appearing to be 'very intoxicated,' the records show.

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"Mr. Brad Caraway's ethanol level was at least two times the legal limit at the time of the fatal collision," Louisville Metro Police Surgeon Dr. Bill Smock wrote in a report after reviewing forensic blood samples and medical records.

The lawsuit says Gerstle's employees were negligent and careless in serving alcohol to Caraway.

"A reasonable person under the same or similar circumstances should have known Bradley A. Caraway was already intoxicated at the time of serving," attorney Robert Mattingly wrote in the suit.

The criminal case records show investigators went to Gerstle's and another bar, which was not named in the lawsuit, days later to review and gather surveillance video from the night of the crash, however, those videos were not included in the files reviewed by the i-Team.

Those videos could provide context to several bar receipts from Gerstle's charged to both Caraway and Moorman's bank accounts. The videos could also support the defense by Gerstle's attorney Gregg Thornton.

"Its a very unfortunate situation, a very bad accident," Thornton said by phone from Lexington, "But it appears that they were only at [Gerstle's} for a short time and we're investigating whether or not they consumed alcohol at other locations that night other than Gerstles."

Answering the lawsuit with a crossclaim, Thornton denied any liability on the part of Gerstle's or its employees.

For many, the lawsuit sparked memories of the 2002 deaths of teenage sweethearts Cory Stauble and Jamie Parsley, who died when Mark Eberenez drove drunk and slammed into a car the teens were driving. All three died in the collision.

Eberenez had been drinking for several hours at a TGI Friday's and another bar before getting behind the wheel.

In June 2003, Friday's and its parent company settled the lawsuit for $21 million.

In an emailed statement, John DeCamillis said every 53 minutes, someone is killed by a drunk driver, adding, in Kentucky alone, drunk drivers kill over 200 people a year.

“As a society, we all possess a responsibility to do our part in keeping drunk drivers off the road.  And, bars, as servers of alcohol, possess a heightened duty,” the statement said, “By holding bars responsible, our law firm is doing our part – with the hope of saving even one more life. “

One difference in the new civil case, the suspected driver survived. Brad Caraway's murder case is still pending in Jefferson County Circuit Court.

Also in the crossclaim, Thornton wrote if Gerstle's was found to be liable, the company wanted Caraway to pay for any damages Gerstle's was ordered to pay. The civil case is still in its early stages, Thornton said.

Layers for Caraway could not be reached for comment.

Amanda Hartley, one of the attorneys representing the Moorman estate, said the lawsuit speaks for itself and declined to comment further.

i-Team Investigator Derrick Rose can be reached via email or by phone and social media. Have a story the i-Team needs to investigate? Send your tips and ideas to dnrose@whas11.com or iteam@whas11.com. You can also reach Derrick at 502-582-7232 and find him Twitter at @WHAS11DRose.