On the night of July 3, 2010, Mary Montgomery was working as a dancer at the club and said she consumed three beers, which customers had purchased for her.
As she was driving on Interstate 70 to her Springfield home sometime after 2 a.m. on July 4, she lost control of her car and hit a vehicle, which was forced into a brick wall. Eric Staeuble was driving that car, and Nichole Johnson was a passenger in the front seat.
Johnson was severely injured, suffering a brain injury and multiple head fractures, broken teeth and ribs, several other broken bones, a collapsed lung and a lacerated liver. She had 11 surgeries to treat her injuries, and had extensive physical and occupational therapy for nearly a year.
Johnson sued Montgomery and the club. The trial court issued a default judgment against Montgomery and found she was negligent in the accident.
Johnson’s other claims went to trial before a magistrate. The jury concluded Johnson was entitled to $2.85 million in damages for past and future medical expenses, past and future pain and suffering, and earlier lost wages.
The jury divided liability equally between Montgomery and Thirty-Eight Thirty.
The club’s customers often buy drinks for dancers, who are allowed to consume alcohol while they work.
When a liquor permit holder sells alcohol to a person whose actions while intoxicated cause injuries, the state’s “Dram Shop Act” allows lawsuits against the permit holder only if the person was noticeably intoxicated or was a minor.
The Second District Court of Appeals concluded the law doesn’t apply to an employee in this situation, and the jury shouldn’t have considered the claim against the business owner Thirty-Eight Thirty. The jury had held the club responsible for $1.43 million of a $2.85 million damages award.
The Second District determined the trial court should have accepted — rather than overruled — the strip club’s request for a directed verdict in its favor on the negligence issue.