Woman sues Bluffton bar over 2009 automobile accident

kpeterson@beaufortgazette.comDecember 26, 2011 

A Beaufort County woman paralyzed in a 2009 automobile crash is suing the bar she claims sold her alcohol even though she was underage, according to court records.

Chelsea Hess, 20 at the time of the accident, is a paraplegic because of injuries from rolling her car on All Joy Road in greater Bluffton, according to her lawsuit.

On Aug. 8, 2009, Hess joined friends at Jock's Sports Grill for billiards, according to court filings. The suit states that when she ordered a drink, the bartender failed to ask for identification or determine whether she was already inebriated.

In their response, the bar's owners deny these claims.

Hess left the bar and was driving down All Joy Road when, at about 1 a.m., the wheels "suddenly dropped off into a large unmaintained area on the shoulder" of the road, the suit states. She lost control of the vehicle, which rolled off the road.

The Island Packet and The Beaufort Gazette have requested documents from the S.C. Highway Patrol's crash investigation, but a spokesman said Thursday they were not immediately available.

A Highway Patrol spokesman said in 2009 that Hess drove her 2000 Mitsubishi off the road and then over-corrected. She was not wearing a seat belt and was thrown about 20 feet from the vehicle, emergency officials said at the time.

Hess filed a suit in the 14th Circuit Court against Jock's Sports Grill in August, alleging the bar violated state law by serving alcohol to a minor and failing to ask for ID. The accident was "proximately caused" by this "negligence, recklessness and willfullness," the suit alleges.

The company that owns the bar, Schubert Place, denies these allegations. Even if the company was negligent, majority responsibility for the accident rests with Hess's own recklessness, its defense argues.

John Seibels Jr., an attorney representing Jock's, said Thursday he could not comment on the case without first consulting his client.

Attempts Thursday to reach Hess's attorney, Karl Twenge, were unsuccessful.

Hess's suit also names the S.C. Department of Transportation, which she alleges failed to "properly maintain the shoulder" of the road or "place markers around the subject area to warn of the dangerous condition."

The department's response argues Hess bears sole responsibility for the accident because she drove intoxicated and failed to keep her car under control.

Follow reporter Kyle Peterson at twitter.com/EyeOnBeaufortCo.

RELATED CONTENT:

Chelsea Hess's complaint against Jock's Sports Grill and S.C. DOT, Aug. 8, 2011

Jock's Sports Grill's answer to the complaint, Nov. 10, 2011

S.C. DOT's answer to the complaint, Oct. 7, 2011

Saturday's crime reports, Aug. 14, 2009

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