Local News

Judge Sets Aside Verdict In Restaurant Case

Posted March 12, 2004 5:27 a.m. EST

— A jury found a local restaurant responsible for a deadly drunken driving crash. A widow was awarded $1.2 million in damages, but moments later, the judge set aside the verdict.

The jury said Torrero's II restaurant allowed William Terry IV to drive after he was already drunk on Dec. 3, 1997. Terry later hit and killed 39-year-old Michael Hall and injured Michael's wife, Theresa.

Friday's verdict gave Theresa Hall tears of joy, but those tears later turned to pain when the judge set aside his verdict.

"I think it was an insult to the jury. I think it was an absolute insult," she said.

Members of the jury said the restaurant should have stopped Terry from driving away.

"There was nothing done to prevent it or to deter him at all," jury foreman Wayne Bynum said.

The civil case against Torero's II restaurant could have made bars and restaurants more responsible for drunken drivers.

A jury in 2000 found that the restaurant was not at fault for selling too much alcohol. However, that jury was deadlocked in deciding whether the restaurant should have prevented the customer from driving away.

Terry pleaded guilty in the incident and served six months in jail. The case is now headed to the state Court of Appeals.