COA upholds bar’s partial liability for hit-and-run

December 29, 2017

The Indiana Court of Appeals on Friday affirmed judgments of liability against a Lake County bar accused of overserving a patron who drove a vehicle that struck another departing customer.

Steven Shearer went to a bar operated by Buddy & Pal’s at approximately 10 or 11 p.m. Jan. 16, 2010. Richard Coyle also went to the bar with Anthony Apato and others around the same time and danced and had bottles of beer. Coyle left the bar before 2 a.m., warmed up his truck for five to ten minutes, and then pulled his truck around to pick up Apato. Shearer exited Buddy & Pal’s and was stuck by Coyle’s truck at about 3-5 mph. Coyle kept driving.

Coyle was arrested after refusing to submit to field sobriety tests, a portable breath test, or a certified breath test. He was charged with driving while intoxicated and for fleeing the scene or hit and run. He pleaded guilty to failure to stop and a lesser charge of reckless driving.

In late 2011, Shearer sued Buddy & Pal’s and Coyle. Coyle settled with Shearer in February 2015, but a jury determined that Shearer was 17 percent at fault, Buddy & Pal’s was 21 percent at fault, and Coyle was 62 percent at fault. The jury awarded total damages of $155,000, of which Buddy & Pal’s share was $32,550.
Buddy & Pal’s filed a motion to correct error arguing that the court erred in denying its motion for judgment on the evidence and that the jury verdict was excessive. The trial court denied the motion, and the COA affirmed in Buddy & Pal’s III, Inc. v. Stephen Shearer, 45A03-1703-CT-465.

Judge Elaine Brown wrote for the panel that found the trial court did not err or abuse its discretion in denying Buddy & Pal’s motion for judgment on the evidence of its motion to correct error.

“Shearer claimed damages for injuries he suffered as a result of the accident and presented evidence supporting his claims, and we decline to disturb the trial court’s ruling,” Brown wrote for the panel.


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