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3 Bars Sued for Overserving Former Prosecutor Before Drunken Car Crash

By Christopher Coble, Esq. | Last updated on

Joshua Kuiper should've known the dangers of drunk driving, including the liability for causing an accident. Kuiper is a former Kent County, Michigan prosecutor, who was fired after crashing his truck into a parked car while traveling the wrong direction on a one way street, seriously injuring Daniel Empson, who was getting a coat out of his car parked on the street.

Kuiper, who was charged with a felony charge of reckless driving, should also be aware of dram shop laws, which hold bars and restaurants liable for injuries caused by overserved patrons. If not, he knows now -- the injury lawsuit Empson filed against Kuiper has been expanded to include three establishments that served him before the crash, alleging they should've known he was drunk.

Liquor Liability

Most states have liquor laws prohibiting the sale of alcohol to anyone who is already intoxicated. In addition, dram shop laws hold establishments civilly liable for personal injuries and property damages that result from the actions of the intoxicated individual. While the person who was overserved can't sue the bar, those, like Empson, who were injured by that person can.

Empson claims he was thrown 60 feet from his car and sustained injuries to his right shoulder, back, left hip, legs, and head. He was allegedly in a sling for six weeks and his injuries may still take six months to a year to completely heal. On top of his suit against Kuiper, Empson is now suing three Grand Rapids establishments -- McFadden's Restaurant & Saloon, Luna, and J. Gardella's -- in a separate lawsuit, claiming Kuiper was visibly intoxicated at all three, yet was still served at least one alcoholic beverage. Kuiper was allegedly out celebrating the retirement of another prosecutor.

Nasty Accident

The crash also had ramifications in the Grand Rapids police department. As reported by MLive:

The investigation of the crash led to the firing of Lt. Matt Janiskee, who was in the watch command office.
Officer Adam Ickes, the first officer on the scene, was suspended. Former Sgt. Thomas Warwick, in the command office before he drove to the scene, and ultimately took Kuiper home, was demoted and suspended.
Police at the scene did not ask Kuiper to take a breath test for alcohol.
When Ickes told Janiskee that Kuiper was "hammered," Janiskee told him to stop talking and call back on telephone line designated "non-recorded," Grand Rapids officials say in court records.

Those calls were in fact recorded, and are now the subject of separate litigation. That's at least three lawsuits and a criminal trial stemming from one prosecutor's bad choices.

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