On September 10, 2017, Spencer Hight walked into his estranged wife’s home and opened fire on the football watch party she was hosting with an AR-15, killing her and seven of her guests. Before the shooting, Hight had been drinking at a bar down the street and was allegedly visibly intoxicated while he was being served.
Now parents of three of Hight’s victims are suing the Local Public House in Plano, Texas, as well as the bartender who served him, claiming the bar was grossly negligent in failing to monitor Hight’s alcohol consumption and continuing to serve Hight alcohol, and also that his intoxication was “a proximate cause” of the shooting.
The Bar Before the Bloodshed
Hight’s behavior in the bar before he left was allegedly so alarming — including spinning a knife on the bar and placing a gun on his table — that bar employees called 911, but not in time to prevent the shooting. Dallas’s WFAA has the details of the evening, according to the lawsuit:
The suit alleges Lindsey Megan Glass, a bartender at the Local Public House, knowingly over served a visibly intoxicated Hight before the fatal shooting spree. Glass allegedly continued to serve Hight alcohol despite seeing him walk with an “unsteady gait” and bump into patio furniture while “extremely intoxicated.”
The suit then claims Glass texted another bartender, Timothy Brandt Banks, to tell him Hight was “drunk and being weird” and displayed a knife. Hight then allegedly displayed a gun and was later escorted out of the bar by Banks to his car, where the bartender asked him to leave his weapons before he reentered the business.
“Hight told Banks he was having problems with his estranged wife and had something to do ‘tonight’,” the lawsuit claims. “Banks told Hight he should do them when he is sober to which Hight responded that he ‘couldn’t do the things he needs to do tonight without being this intoxicated.'”
Ultimately, Banks was concerned “something bad was going to happen” and called the bar’s owner, Jerry Owen, to ask whether he should call police, but Owen allegedly told him not to. Banks also asked whether he should tackle Hight as he watched him leave, and Owen once again said no.
So-called “dram shop laws” can hold sellers of intoxicating liquors liable if a third party is injured as a result of a customer’s intoxication. Texas’s Dram Shop Act holds establishments liable for selling alcohol to obviously intoxicated persons if:
at the time the provision occurred it was apparent to the provider that the individual being sold, served, or provided with an alcoholic beverage was obviously intoxicated to the extent that he presented a clear danger to himself and others; and
the intoxication of the recipient of the alcoholic beverage was a proximate cause of the damages suffered.
Given Hight’s behavior in the bar and statements about what he was going to do, the victims’ parents appear to have a pretty good case against the bar. If you have more questions about bar liability in injury cases where someone was overserved, contact an experienced injury attorney.