Mississippi Judge Declines to Dismiss Lawsuit Against Nightclub, City

May 29, 2013

A federal judge won’t dismiss a lawsuit that argues the city of West Point and a local nightclub are liable for injuries to an underage driver, who authorities say was driving while intoxicated after drinking at the club.

The Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal reports that U.S. District Judge Sharion Aycock on Thursday denied motions to dismiss from the city and MEC Inc., which owns The Pony nightclub south of West Point on U.S. Highway 45-Alternate. Trial is scheduled for June 17 in Aberdeen.

Aycock said there remained “genuine disputes of material fact” that should go to trial.

Natalie Stafford, her son Richard’s conservator, sued the city and the nightclub involving a January of 2010 accident the occurred after her son partied overnight with friends in West Point, visited The Pony and returned to their condo where guests continued to drink, according to court documents.

Court records show Richard Stafford was 20 years old at the time. Mississippi’s legal drinking age is 21.

The lawsuit alleges before and after 5 a.m., West Point police arrived in response to complaints about a disturbance. Among others, Richard Stafford was ordered to leave. Police officers deny telling him that.

About 15 miles into his drive home, Stafford was injured in a wreck. Court records show two hours later, Stafford’s blood alcohol level was 0.15 percent.

Mississippi law defines intoxication as a blood-alcohol level of 0.08 percent for any driver 21 or older. For younger drivers, the legal limit is 0.02 percent.

Earlier, Aycock dismissed two police officers from the case, citing “qualified immunity” since no constitutional right was violated against Stafford.

The city of West Point also argues it has immunity from the lawsuit.

The owners of the nightclub argue Natalie Stafford failed to show how the club was liable for the accident, even if her son was improperly served alcohol there.

The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages.

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