Family injured by drunk driver settles suit for $1.125M  

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A Horry County family will receive $1.125 million in insurance settlements after being injured by a drunk driver that the family alleged had been over-served by a local drinking establishment, their attorney reports. 

Luke Rankin of Rankin & Rankin in Conway reports that his clients were driving home from an elementary school open house in 2016 when another driver, Katherine Lois Welker, crossed the center line and collided with their vehicle. 

Rankin

Rankin

The driver, Eric Roberts, sustained knee, back, thumb, chest, hip, and shoulder injuries and will ultimately require a hip replacement, Rankin said. His sister-in-law, Susan, suffered neck and back troubles from the incident, while her minor child fractured a wrist. 

Rankin said that Straight from Philly Pizzeria & Sports Bar in Myrtle Beach had served Welker numerous alcoholic drinks prior to the crash. Sales slips established Welker’s presence at the bar, and Welker indicated that she’d been drinking at the establishment both at midday and after work. 

“She was drunk and, through discovery, we found out where she’d been and brought in the restaurant/bar as a defendant and collected from their coverage,” Rankin said. “She admitted it in her deposition and in her hospital exchange with nurses and staff.” 

Rankin said that Welker was visibly drunk in police dashcam footage taken in the wake of the crash. 

Under the terms of the settlement, Straight from Philly’s insurer will pay $797,000, most of it to Eric Rogers. The plaintiffs also received $278,000 under the terms of their own underinsured motorist policy, with an additional $50,000 coming from Welker’s policy. 

Ed Pritchard of Pritchard Law Group, which represented Straight from Philly, said the settlement was not an admission of liability and was reached simply to mitigate the risk of a trial. 

“It is an alcohol-related injury,” Pritchard said. “You never know what a jury is going to do with that. There were two competing stories. You don’t know who the jury is going to believe.” 

Pritchard said that staff working for Straight from Philly denied serving Welker any alcohol at all. He said she was apparently there with a group of coworkers, some of whom were drinking, but said that Welker was served only water. 

“There was some evidence that she had consumed alcohol in other locations,” Welker said. 

Pritchard said that there was also a dispute over the extent of the injuries in the case, particularly the need for surgery on Eric Roberts’s knee. 

Edward Love of King & Love in Florence represented Welker. He did not return a request for comment. 

The settlement was finalized in August. Jim Davis of Lindemann & Davis in Columbia served as mediator. 

SETTLEMENT REPORT – DRAM SHOP/MOTOR VEHICLE CRASH 

Amount: $1.125 million 

Injuries alleged: Knee, back, thumb, chest, hip, and shoulder injuries; neck and back injuries; fractured wrist 

Case name: Eric Rogers v. Katherine Lois Welker; Straight From Philly Pizzeria & Sports Bar; Auto Owners Insurance Company 

Court: Horry County Circuit Court 

Case No.: 2017-CP-26-00335 

Mediator: Jim Davis of Lindemann & Davis in Columbia  

Date settlement: Dec. 4, 2020 

Insurance carrier: Sentinel Insurance Company for dram shop defendant, GEICO for driver defendant, and Auto Owners Insurance Company for underinsured motorist insurer 

Attorney for plaintiff: Luke Rankin of Rankin & Rankin in Conway 

Attorneys for defendants: Ed Pritchard of Pritchard Law Group in Charleston for dram shop defendant and Edward Love of King & Love in Florence for driver defendant 

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