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Richmond Nightclub Sued After DUI Death

06.18.16 01:41 PM – Andy McDonald
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RICHMOND – A family member of a woman killed in a 2015 DUI accident is suing a Richmond nightclub, blaming proprietors for contributing to the death of a former Model High School student.

According to Madison County Circuit Court records, Paula Kopacz, acting as the administratrix of the estate of Chelsea Carroll Harnack, has filed a civil suit against Justin Waggoner and Bryson Alford, co-owners/managers of Jerzees in Richmond. The suit also names Caleb Michael Aldridge, 27, who was charged with driving under the influence following the accident that resulted in Harnack’s death. Hartford insurance company is also a defendant in the suit.

The case stems from a January 1, 2015 traffic accident on Four Mile Road, in which a car driven by Aldridge collided with a tree, causing Harnack to be ejected from the vehicle. The suit alleges Aldridge was driving too fast and that he was under the influence of alcohol at the time. Aldridge was later indicted for murder, assault, and driving under the influence, and he is lodged in the Madison County Detention Center, according to the county’s website.

The suit further asserts that Waggoner and Alford, as co-owners/co-managers of Jerzees, somehow failed to prevent Aldridge from becoming intoxicated, which was a contributing factor in the accident, according to court documents. The lawsuit alleges that Alford was a customer at Jerzees on New Year’s Eve 2014 from approximately 11 p.m. until 1 a.m. New Year’s Day, 2015.

The Hartford insurance company is named in the suit because Harnack was on an auto insurance policy carried by Kopacz, and thus should be obligated to pay for damages Harnack incurred at the hands of an uninsured or underinsured driver, according to court documents.

A 2010 graduate of Model High School and an award winning track star and athlete, Harnack was 22 years old when she died.

The lawsuit is seeking recovery of compensatory damages, including funeral expenses, loss of Harnack’s earning power, recovery of damages for pain and suffering, as well as punitive damages.

Kopacz is represented by the law firm of Coy, Gilbert Shepherd & Wilson in Richmond.

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