A Zachary golf course where Brett Gerald admitted drinking six or seven beers just hours before crashing into a car near Slaughter and killing seven Baton Rouge residents in 2012 was dismissed Monday from a lawsuit filed by family members of the victims.
State District Judge Mike Caldwell, of Baton Rouge, ruled no evidence has been presented to show anyone at Copper Mill Golf Club sold Gerald a sufficient amount of alcohol to make him intoxicated or sold him alcohol after he was impaired.
Caldwell noted that Gerald admitted drinking four of the six beers he brought to Copper Mill on May 30, 2012, and then buying two more at the clubhouse, but the judge — who called the traffic crash a “very tragic situation” — said there is no evidence that Gerald was impaired at the club.
“I think the judge’s reasons were spot on. It’s the law,” Copper Mill Golf Club attorney John Wolff III said.
Steve Irving and Joel Porter, who represent the victims’ family members in the suit, said they will ask the state 1st Circuit Court of Appeal to review and reverse Caldwell’s ruling.
“It’s disappointing, but it’s not the end,” John Gaines Jr., who lost his mother, sister and sister’s four children in the head-on collision on La. 67, said outside the courtroom. “We’re still trying to find out exactly what happened.”
If the judge’s ruling stands, Gerald would be the lone remaining defendant in the suit.
“We will try that case,” Porter insisted.
Caldwell, with no objection from the plaintiffs, also dismissed the state Department of Transportation and Development from the case Monday.
The Copper Mill Homeowners Association and three beverage cart servers were previously dismissed from the suit. A state investigation revealed those servers were not licensed to serve alcohol the day Gerald was at the club.
Porter argued Monday to Caldwell that Copper Mill Golf Club is not immune from liability because the club did not hold an alcoholic beverage permit at the time, but Wolff said Copper Mill Food and Beverage LLC was licensed. He said the scope of the permit covered the various Copper Mill entities.
“They have no evidence that the golf club sold anything to Mr. Gerald,” Wolff told the judge.
Porter argued that Gerald has told multiple stories about how much he drank before the fatal crash.
“There are real issues that must be ferreted out,” he told Caldwell.
Porter also said questions linger about Copper Mill Golf Club’s involvement in Gerald’s intoxication.
“It is a fact for the jury to make a decision on,” he argued.
Porter, who noted that Gerald had a blood-alcohol level of 0.15 percent two hours after he left the club and crashed his pickup, said Gerald was clearly at the club long enough to become intoxicated.
In Louisiana, a blood-alcohol content of 0.08 percent is considered presumptive evidence of drunken driving.
The 2012 crash killed Brenda Gaines, 64; Denise Gaines, 33; Willie Gaines Jr., 15; Rogerick Johnson Jr., 13; Diamond Johnson, 12; Jyran Johnson, 6; and Angela Matthews Mosely, 36. All but Mosely were members of the same extended family.
They were on their way home from church services in Clinton.
Gerald had three other DWI arrests before the fatal collision and one conviction.