Case Study: George Elenbark vs. Steven Evans Rack Bar and Grill

George Elenbark v. Steven Evans and Rack’s Bar and Grill; Jane Spare, adminstratix ad prosequendum for the heirs at law and Estate of Mary Elenbark, deceased v. Rack’s Bar and Grill, Inc., Steven Evans, George Elenbark and Jerome Hope, No. CAM-L-2460-07; CAM-L- 854-08

Motor Vehicle: Motorcycle collided with drunken driver leaving bar

(P) $14,207,563.50
Alcohol Involvement, Negligence – Negligent Service of Alcohol, Dram Shop, Motor Vehicle – Motorcycle, Motor Vehicle – Passenger
George Elenbark v. Steven Evans and Rack’s Bar and Grill; Jane Spare, adminstratix ad prosequendum for the heirs at law and Estate of Mary Elenbark, deceased v. Rack’s Bar and Grill, Inc., Steven Evans, George Elenbark and Jerome Hope, No. CAM-L-2460-07; CAM-L- 854-08
Camden County Superior Court, NJ
Ronald J. Freeman
05-19-2010

Plaintiff(s):

Attorney(s):
  • Michael A. Kaplan; Jarve Kaplan Granato, LLC; Marlton, NJ, for Mary Elenbark, George Elenbark
  • Robert A. Porter; Bafundo, Porter, Borbi & Clancy, LLC; Marlton, NJ, for George Elenbark, Mary Elenbark

Expert(s):
  • Robert Wolf Ed.D., M.B.A; Economics; Cherry Hill, NJ called by: Michael Kaplan, Robert Porter
  • Joel Milzoff Ph.D.; Toxicology; Hartford, CT called by: Michael Kaplan, Robert Porter
  • John Wilkins D.O.; Psychiatry; Marlton, NJ called by: Robert Porter
  • Jeffrey Zwirn; Video Security Expert Analysis; Teaneck, NJ called by: Michael Kaplan, Robert Porter
  • Gregory Maslow M.D.; Orthopedic Surgery; Woodbury Heights, NJ called by: Robert Porter

Defendant(s):

Attorney(s):
  • Cindy Shera; Law Office of Debra Hart; Mt. Laurel, NJ, for Steven Evans
  • J. Brooks Di Donato; Parker McCay, PA; Marlton, NJ, for George Ellenbark
  • L. Patrick Dacey; Bolan, Jahnsen & Dacey; Shrewsbury, NJ, for Rack’s Bar and Grill, Inc.

Facts:

On April 20, 2007, plaintiff George Elenbark, 40, a machinist, was operating his motorcycle on Route 30/White Horse Pike in Atco, with his wife, plaintiff’s decedent Mary Elenbark, 44, an executive assistant to a mortgage company chief executive officer, as a passenger, when they collided with an automobile driven by Steven Evans who had just pulled out of Rack’s Bar and Grill. Evans had been drinking beer there as he celebrated his 21st birthday. Evans left the bar at around 9 p.m. and pulled out of the parking lot directly into the path of the Elenbarks’ motorcycle. Evans fled the scene but was apprehended within minutes by the Winslow Township Police Department. His blood alcohol level, according to a breath test was 0.10.

Both Elenbark’s suffered catastrophic injuries and Mary Elenbark died from her injuries a week following the accident.

George Elenbark sued Evans for motor vehicle negligence and Rack’s Bar and Grill for negligently serving him alcohol.

On behalf of the Estate of Mary Elenbark, her sister, Jane Spare sued the same defendants. That lawsuit also named George Elenbark as a defendant and Jerome Hope, an individual who Evans claimed pulled his car up alongside of his and obscured his view of oncoming traffic.

The Estate’s claim against George Elenbark was voluntarily dismissed early in the proceeding and the claim against Jerome Hope was also dismissed by way of an unopposed summary judgment motion.

The remaining claims of George Elenbark and the Estate of Mary Elenbark were consolidated and proceeded to trial against Rack’s Bar and Grill and Evans. The jury was shown evidence that Rack’s Bar had intentionally altered surveillance videos. The videos had segments missing and plaintiffs’ counsel contended that these were intentional alterations to the nearly 60 hours of relevant video footage, which they sought to confirm through the testimony of a video fraud expert.

Evans, who was sentenced to four years in prison for leaving the scene of an accident where serious bodily injury occurred, initially claimed that he was not even aware that he had been involved in an accident. The bar vehemently denied that any of the video surveillance cameras in its establishment had been tampered with and attributed the alleged “gaps” in the recovered videos to vagrancies in the surveillance system.

Plaintiffs’ counsel sought and obtained an adverse inference charge whereby the judge instructed the jury that an adverse inference could be drawn if the jury accepted the plaintiffs’ proofs that the videotapes had been altered or tampered by the defendant tavern.

 

Injury:

Mary Elenbark suffered severe closed head injuries resulting in a coma from which she never recovered until she died a week following the accident. Mary Elenbark is survived by her husband and a daughter, Francesca Delvecchio, who was an 18-year-old college student at the time of the accident.

George Elenbark sustained 13 fractures to his right foot, ankle and leg from crushing injuries. He underwent six surgeries involving open reductions and skin grafts and is left with a frozen ankle, which has no up and down motion and was described by his physician as “a block” appended to his leg. He suffers from osteomyelitis (a permanent bone infection) at the site of his injuries and is incurring continuing bone loss. The injured leg is grossly deformed, with considerable muscle damage and continuing atrophy. He walks with a cane and five years after the accident is still taking daily narcotic pain medications.

Plaintiffs’ counsel projected that Mary Elenbark, who was the primary breadwinner in the Elenbark household, had future lost income of approximately $300,000 and there would be lost household services to her husband and child in the amount of $231,050.

George Elenbark didn’t claim any lost wages. George Elenbark also advanced a Portee claim for the emotional suffering as a result of witnessing the injury and suffering of his wife.

Verdict Information:

The jury found the bar was 75-percent liable for negligence and Evans was 25-percent liable. The jury awarded $14,207,563.50.

George Elenbark

$773,014 Personal Injury: Past Medical Cost

$3,000,000 Personal Injury: pain & suffering

$2,500,000 Personal Injury: emotional distress (Portee)

Mary Elenbark

$300,500 Personal Injury: FutureLostEarningsCapability

$234,050 Personal Injury: household services

$7,400,000 Personal Injury: lost assistance/care//training/advice/guidance/counsel/companionship

 

Editor’s Comments:

This report is based on court records and information that was provided by plaintiff’s and defense counsel.