Two bars and an Asheboro man’s mother were added Monday to a lawsuit filed in a fatal head-on collision that killed three people in Orange County.
The lawsuit also challenges as unconstitutional a state law that caps business damages at $500,000 when alcohol is sold to an underage person.
Witnesses, according to search warrants, told investigators that 20-year-old Chandler Michael Kania consumed alcohol at a party in Chapel Hill on July 18 before visiting He’s Not Here and La Residence restaurant in downtown Chapel Hill.
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The lawsuit accuses both businesses of serving alcohol to Kania hours before investigators said he drove a Jeep Wrangler northbound in the southbound lanes of Interstate 85. Kania’s Jeep collided head-on with a Suzuki near the I-40 split, killing three people: Jahnice Baird, 6, of Brooklyn, N.Y., and Felecia Harris, 49, and Darlene McGee, 46, both of Charlotte.
A 9-year-old child in the Suzuki survived.
The lawsuit, on behalf of McGee’s family, accuses both businesses of unlawfully selling alcohol to an intoxicated person who also was younger than 21. It also accuses the businesses of being negligent in their duty to train employees, enforce policies and take “other reasonable steps” to prevent the sale of alcohol to an intoxicated and underage person.
Chapel Hill police reported responding to three alcohol-related incidents at He's Not Here and La Residence in the last 18 months. Both businesses also have faced the Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission in the past.
Attorneys with Oxendine Barnes and Associates initially sued Kania and his father, Michael Kania, of Asheboro. The amended lawsuit filed Monday adds Kania’s mother Stephanie Borgard Kania to the list of defendants.
The lawsuit accuses Kania of driving carelessly and recklessly while impaired by alcohol and other substances and “in willful and wanton disregard of the rights and safety of others.”
Michael and Stephanie Kania are liable, the lawsuit argues, because Chandler Kania is considered a dependent living in the family home and because his mother and father jointly owned and maintained the Jeep involved in the accident as a family vehicle and for their son’s use.
The lawsuit seeks damages “in excess of $25,000” from Kania, his parents and the Chapel Hill businesses. The attorneys are asking for a jury trial to determine punitive damages – in excess of $25,000 – against Kania and the businesses.
Kania is free on $1 million bail but under house arrest with an 8 p.m. to 8 a.m. curfew. Kania, who would have been a junior in UNC’s advertising program this year, is no longer enrolled, university officials said this week.
Investigators have said Kania’s blood-alcohol level the night of the accident was 0.17 – more than twice the state’s legal limit for someone 21 and older – and that he had marijuana in his system.
Kania is charged with three counts of second-degree murder, three counts of felony death by motor vehicle, serious injury by motor vehicle, driving while impaired, careless and reckless driving, possessing an open container of alcohol, possession of alcohol by a person under age 21 and driving by a person less than 21 years old after consuming alcohol.