Report: Jury finds bar liable in Roadway driver’s death

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A North Carolina jury found a nightclub liable for serving drinks to a man later involved in a wreck that killed a Roadway tractor-trailer driver, the Winston-Salem Journal reported Thursday, Dec. 7.

The jury returned the verdict against the Inzone, a nightclub in Kernersville, N.C., in a wrongful-death claim brought by the truck driver’s widow, Constance Sue Horn, the Journal reported; jurors also found the nightclub liable for the loss of the tractor-trailer. Roadway, which owned the truck, sued the Inzone for damages; the amount of damages awarded for each claim will be determined in separate court hearings.

According to court testimony, on March 6, 2004, Mickey Joe Hayes, 44, of Mount Airy left the Inzone after a night of drinking. Later that night, Hayes tried to pass Mark Joseph Horn’s tractor-trailer by using an emergency lane on U.S. 52, according to testimony, but he veered into the tractor-trailer as the two vehicles approached a bridge abutment, sending the cab of Horn’s tractor-trailer off an overpass.

Jonathan Dills, an attorney for Constance Horn and the estate of her husband, told the Journal it took the jury 33 minutes to return a verdict Thursday. “The family is grateful to Roadway for its participation, the attorneys for their hard work, the jury for their attentiveness and the judge for his fairness,” Dills told the Journal. “We’re pleased that this piece of the case has ended to bring them a modicum of justice.”

Dills and attorneys for Roadway argued that in a four-hour period, Hayes had at least 12 beers at the nightclub, after already having had two or three beers before he got to the club’s bar, based on an expert’s testimony. Bryan Gates Jr., an attorney for the Inzone, argued that Hayes did not appear drunk at the club and that if Hayes had been unruly, an employee at the Inzone would have remembered him being there.

“People he was with at times made statements that he appeared fine to drive, and in fact got in the car with him,” Gates told the Journal. “I was disappointed that we didn’t win. I thought we put on a good defense.”

In February, Hayes was convicted of second-degree murder and driving while impaired in connection with Horn’s death. He is serving 11 to 14 years in prison.