Restaurants settle lawsuit over drunk driving pedestrian accident | News

Jurors were set to hear evidence to decide whether two upscale restaurants in Charleston were civilly liable for serving alcohol to a man who later struck a pedestrian in 2018. But on the eve of the trial, the parties settled the case – just days after Halls. Chophouse revealed additional receipts showing that the driver may have had more to drink than initially claimed.

During a closed-door hearing on April 18, attorneys for Megan Anslye Johnson and those for Halls Chophouse and the Market Pavilion Hotel and Grill 225 informed U.S. District Court Judge Joseph Dawson III of the settlement.

The federal lawsuit was filed against the Chophouse and Grill 225, arguing that they were liable for compensatory and punitive damages to Johnson because the establishments allegedly continued to serve alcohol to an intoxicated Daniel C. Moss. On the evening of August 30, 2018, Moss visited both restaurants at Meeting and Mary streets in the hours leading up to the 12:30 p.m. crash. Johnson was walking along Meeting Street when she was struck by a 2003 Mercedes. Moss, who owns a construction company and lives on a yacht at the city’s marina, was driving the car.

After hitting Johnson, Moss left the scene and drove a block, where he parked on Reid Street. He returned to the scene on foot. Charleston police charged Moss with misdemeanor driving under the influence instead of misdemeanor DUI causing death or serious injury. He pleaded guilty in May 2019.

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Johnson claimed she was standing in a crosswalk with a green light when Moss ran a red light and struck her, according to court documents. Moss claimed Johnson was not in the crosswalk and that she came out of nowhere, he said under oath.

Johnson sued Moss, his car insurance company, the Chophouse and Grill 225. She was seriously and permanently injured, according to her lawsuits. The lawsuit against Moss and his insurance company was settled in October 2021.

The night of the crash, Moss dined with friends at Grill 225 at the Market Pavilion Hotel before he and his girlfriend ended the evening at the Chophouse.

In response to discovery requests, Grill retrieved 225 receipts showing that Moss had purchased several drinks that evening. The Chophouse produced only one receipt showing that Moss had purchased two drinks: one for himself and one for his date.

Earlier this month, the federal civil case was finally ready for trial after years of legal wrangling. A jury was selected and the trial was scheduled to begin on April 23.

For years, Johnson’s lawyers repeatedly requested a full accounting of every food or drink purchase Moss made the night of the crash. In the late afternoon of April 12, an attorney for Chophouse notified Johnson’s attorneys that more receipts had been found, showing that Moss had purchased more than one drink the night of the crash.

On April 15, Johnson’s lawyers asked the judge for an emergency hearing, sanctions against the Chophouse and that the judge strip the restaurant of its intended defense.

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In response, Chophouse’s lawyers insisted that no attempt had been made to conceal the new evidence. It wasn’t until April 12 that the Chophouse’s IT director changed the parameters of a search for Moss’s receipts. Instead of searching for receipts under Moss’ name, the IT director searched the last four digits of Moss’ credit card number. If the intent was to withhold evidence, the additional receipt would never have been shared, according to the suspect’s response.

In light of the new evidence, attorneys for Chophouse and Grill 225 asked the judge to postpone the trial. Johnson’s lawyers objected.

The parties subsequently reached a settlement. Dawson signed an order giving the parties 60 days to complete the agreement or the case would be reopened.

The original complaint, filed in 2020, alleged that the night Moss’ vehicle struck Johnson, he had already been overserved at Grill 225 and then received more alcohol while intoxicated at the Chophouse.

According to the lawsuit, Moss arrived at Grill 225 and drank a Nitrotini at the bar while he and his girlfriend waited for their dinner companions. After sitting down, he had another Nitrotini, then a glass of champagne and a 350ml glass of red wine. According to Johnson’s lawyers, Moss had consumed the equivalent of 7.66 servings of alcohol in an hour before arriving at the Chophouse. Instead of buying one drink at the Chophouse, Moss bought three or four more alcoholic drinks, according to the latest motions filed by Johnson’s attorneys.

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The night Johnson was hit, Moss was recorded on the Charleston Police Department’s dashboard and body cameras. Moss was unable to properly perform field sobriety tests. He refused a breath test and a blood test.

Moss pleaded guilty in May 2019 in Charleston Municipal Court. His criminal record was later expunged. It is not clear from available court records when or why the conviction was vacated. But because it did, the case file was sealed and the inmate’s file was removed from public access. Johnson’s lawyers had to obtain a court order to obtain the police file on Moss’ arrest.