Parents sue other driver, bar for daughter's DUI death

By David Yates | Jun 24, 2008

John Morgan

Seeking monetary compensation after their daughter was killed while driving drunk, the parents of Megan Watkins have filed suit against the establishment that sold their daughter alcoholic beverages, the tow truck driver she hit head on and the daughter's insurance company.

Melissa Dwyer and Jerome Watkins filed their suit against The Dixie Dance Hall, Travis Darby, Independent Specialty Towing (Darby's employer) and Allstate Insurance Co. on June 23 in the Jefferson County District Court.

The late Watkins' parents also requested a temporary restraining order prohibiting the defendants from tampering with evidence. Judge Bob Wortham approved the TRO on the same day the suit was filed, June 23.

Only three weeks ago, on June 5, 2008, Watkins was driving drunk when she hit Darby's tow truck head on.

KFDM News reported that Watkins is the daughter of Beaumont police officer Jerome Watkins.

Watkins' parents allege the incident was caused by Darby, who had "stopped his vehicle in the middle of the roadway which caused a head-on collision," the suit says.

A spokesperson for the tow truck company told KFDM News the driver followed directions given by law enforcement officers. She said the wrecker driver stopped only because officers had a roadblock up trying to save a life.

The spokesperson said Darby hasn't been able to work since the accident because of injuries he received.

The suit does not give details about the collision, however an article in the Beaumont Enterprise says Watkins, 22, was traveling west in the eastbound lane of Interstate 10, about five miles west of Beaumont when she "struck another vehicle head on." Watkins, a Bridge City resident, was pronounced dead at the scene.

"Defendant Darby failed to move his vehicle from the roadway creating a hazard of which he should have reasonably been aware," the suit says. "Plaintiff invokes the doctrine of Respondeat Superior (Latin for let the master answer) against Defendant Independent Specialty Towing."

Watkins parents are also suing Dixie Dance Hall under the Texas Dram Shop Act, alleging the establishment breached its duty to Watkins by continuing to provide alcohol beverages to her "when she was clearly intoxicated and presented a clear danger to herself and others."

"At the time of the decedent's wrongful death, the decedent was survived by her parents … the persons entitled to recover damages in this action," the suit says.

"The decedent was a loving and dutiful child and provided reasonable services to her parents. Decedent also provided Plaintiffs with joy, happiness and anticipation of all the pleasures that a child can provide to parents, as well as the anticipation of care, counsel, advice, nurture, guidance and affection both to and for the Plaintiffs in the future."

Watkins' parents are also suing for her conscious pain and physical suffering prior to her death, her mental anguish, property damages, as well as for the reasonable and necessary medical and funeral expenses.

"Plaintiffs request an award of punitive or exemplary damages from these Defendants in the discretion of the trier of fact to deter any such future misconduct," the suit says.

The plaintiffs are demanding a trial by jury and are represented by attorney John Morgan of the Lindsay & Morgan law firm.

The case has been assigned to Judge Bob Wortham, 58th Judicial District.

Case No. A181-952

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