Martell’s Tiki Bar has agreed to settle lawsuits filed over a drunken driving accident two years ago resulting in the death of one of their patrons and the serious injury of another driver. The Jersey Journal reports.
The bar patron, Ashley Chieco of Wood-Ridge, had been drinking for several hours and left in a vehicle that looked like hers, but was not.
After the accident, two lawsuits were filed in a Middlesex County court against the popular shore bar – one by Chieco’s family, the other by the injured driver.
Martell’s lawyers agreed to resolve the lawsuits in open court earlier this month, two attorneys involved in the case said Wednesday.
In an agreement with the judge, the attorneys and their clients have agreed not to disclose monetary amounts. Martell’s admitted no wrongdoing by settling the suits, the attorneys said.
Attorney Peter D. Manahan, who represents Martell’s, did not return several calls seeking comment.
“Martell’s did the right thing,” said attorney Paul Edelstein, who represents Dana Corrar of Old Bridge. “Dana was compensated adequately and fairly.”
Corrar, 57, was driving home from work Aug. 16, 2013 when she collided with an SUV that Chieco was driving the wrong way on Route 18 near the County Road 516 overpass.
Several drivers called 911 to report an erratic, wrong-way driver moments before the crash.
Corrar suffered multiple injuries, has had nine surgeries and can no longer work.
“I’m happy with the settlement,” Corrar said Monday. “I just want to move on with my life.”
The former nurse said she hopes to one day work as an advocate for MADD, the Mothers Against Drunk Driving organization.
Attorney Peter Mac Isaac said Wednesday the accident could have been avoided through monitoring of both Chieco and the parking lot.
Mac Isaac represents Joe and Sara Chieco, the parents of Ashley.
“She shouldn’t have died that day,” Mac Isaac said. “To allow her to drive off in this vehicle … it just shouldn’t have happened.”
Chieco was a crisis counselor in New York and a psychology professor at Bergen Community College. She had been drinking with a friend for several hours before driving off in a stranger’s car in a valet parking lot operated by Martell’s.
Chieco’s blood-alcohol level was .189 at the time of her death, more than twice the legal limit, according to police.
Mac Isaac said Chieco’s parents agreed to the settlement in part to put the ordeal behind them.
“They want to move on with their lives,” Mac Isaac said. “This was their only daughter.”
Last April, Martell’s owners agreed to a 30-day license suspension and $500,000 in fines for serving alcohol to Chieco, whom the attorneys claimed was visibly drunk.
In a consent order signed by Martell’s and New Jersey Deputy Attorney General Marita K. Navarro, Martell’s agreed that another violation of state liquor laws “resulting in serious injury or death” may result in an indefinite suspension of Martell’s liquor license.
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