$32M verdict sought in dram shop trial against Hooters

By David Yates | Nov 21, 2013

On Wednesday, the plaintiff’s attorney representing the mother of the late Amber Roussel asked jurors to award his client $32 million dollars, $1 million for every year lost. 

Roussel’s mother, Melba Braud, filed suit against Derek McBride, who has officially been charged with vehicular manslaughter, and Texas Wings Inc., doing business as Hooters, on Feb. 19 in Jefferson County District Court.

Jury selection in the dram shop lawsuit, which alleges Hooters over-served an “obviously” intoxicated McBride, began on Nov. 18.

“Dram shop” laws allow DUI victims or their families to sue alcohol vendors or retailers for monetary damages.

On Nov. 20 jurors heard opening statements. Fifteen jurors were selected to judge the evidence, 12 women and three men.

Braud’s attorney, Alton Todd of Friendswood, began his opening remarks by showing jurors a 250-pound brush guard, not unlike the one that flew through Roussel’s windshield and killed her on July 30, 2012, after McBride crashed while drag racing down Interstate 10 with Caleb Harley.

“It was the last thing she saw,” Todd said, concluding that he would ask jurors to award Braud $32 million, $1 million for every year she has lost with her daughter.

“The Beaumont Hooters … served McBride and Harley when they were obviously … intoxicated and unable to operate a motor vehicle,” the suit states.

“As was predictable and foreseeable, the (two men) in their intoxicated condition failed to operate their vehicles in a reasonable and prudent manner. (They) were racing at a high rate of speed on I-10 … when McBride passed a vehicle on the shoulder and hit another vehicle, lost control and hit the center concrete median, knocking the brush guard off his vehicle.”

The guard flew through the air like “a missile” and smashed the windshield of the vehicle Roussel was riding in as a passenger, killing her, the suit states.

Todd told jurors that he believes the evidence will show that Hooters was promoting alcohol sales and was negligent in serving McBride more than a dozen alcoholic beverages.

McBride’s defense centers on Hooter’s over-serving him and not cutting him off.

Hooters attorney Kent Adams countered by saying it was McBride who “made some very bad decisions that day.”

Adams singled out McBride’s defense too, saying it takes a lot for he and his defendants to get up and blame a restaurant for McBride getting drunk and drag racing down I-10.

The suit accuses McBride of negligently operating a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol. Hooters is accused of breaching its duty by over-serving him.

Plaintiff Ryan Roussel and his children had their claims against McBride, Harley and Hooters consolidated into Braud’s suit.

The plaintiffs are suing for damages under the Wrongful Death Act and seek an award of exemplary damages.

In addition to Adams, Hooters is also represented in part by Dallas attorney Douglas Fletcher of Fletcher, Farley, Shipman & Salinas.

Case No. A193-952

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