Tiger Woods, his girlfriend, and a Florida restaurant are facing a lawsuit in the aftermath of a December car crash that killed one of their employees.
Bartender Nicholas Immesberger, 24, lost control of his 1999 Corvette, went airborne, and collided with a sign and a parked vehicle. He wasn’t wearing his seat belt and was partially ejected from the overturned Corvette. He was pronounced dead at the scene.
The lawsuit comes into play because Immesberger’s parents claim that Woods and his girlfriend, Erica Herman, who is general manager of The Woods restaurant, should have prevented Immesberger from consuming too much alcohol the day of his death.
According to the suit, Woods and Herman were aware of Immesberger’s drinking addiction and continued serving alcohol to him after his shift ended at 3 p.m. on Dec. 10, 2019. The single-vehicle crash occurred about 6 p.m. that day, and a subsequent blood test revealed Immesberger had a blood alcohol level of .256, more than three times the legal limit.
Florida Statute 768.125 holds a business responsible when it over-serves a person known to be addicted to alcohol:
A person who sells or furnishes alcoholic beverages to a person of lawful drinking age shall not thereby become liable for injury or damage caused by or resulting from the intoxication of such person, except that a person who willfully and unlawfully sells or furnishes alcoholic beverages to a person who is not of lawful drinking age or who knowingly serves a person habitually addicted to the use of any or all alcoholic beverages may become liable for injury or damage caused by or resulting from the intoxication of such minor or person.
“This is a tragedy because someone who had a problem was not taken care of, and instead, The Woods (restaurant), Tiger and Erica chose to fuel that addiction,” attorney Spencer Kuvin said. “They fueled his addiction with more alcohol instead of help.”
Immesberger’s family argues in the lawsuit that employees at The Woods, including Woods and Herman, knew Immesberger attended Alcoholics Anonymous meetings and had already been involved in another alcohol-related crash weeks earlier.
Woods, who recently capped a triumphant return to the top with a win at the Masters, addressed the lawsuit during a press conference at the PGA Championship on Tuesday.
“We’re all very sad that Nick passed away,” Woods said. “It was a terrible night, a terrible ending, and we feel bad for him and his entire family. It’s very sad.”
In a story on its website, Sports Illustrated listed several possible defense strategies for Woods and his co-defendants, including arguing that Immesberger, being a bartender, could have served himself the alcohol. The suit claims that video of Immesberger being served drinks in the bar was destroyed, but Woods might try to prove no such video ever existed or it was the normal policy of the restaurant to save videos for only a certain number of days, SI speculates. Since The Woods is incorporated, Woods’ personal liability might be limited if Immesberger’s family proves only that the restaurant is responsible, not Woods personally. For an in-depth look at the lawsuit, visit SI.com.
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