NewsLocal News


Guardianship of Jacquelyn Faircloth takes case to Florida Supreme Court

Guardianship, local bar at odds over liability
Florida Supreme Court
Posted at 9:18 PM, Jul 15, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-16 18:39:31-04

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL) — The Florida Supreme Court will hear a case involving the guardianship of a woman who was under the influence of alcohol and was injured by an underage drunk driver that received alcoholic drinks from a local establishment.

In the filing to the Florida Supreme Court Thursday, the court determined the case met the “great public importance” threshold in determining “whether the comparative fault statute applies to tort actions involving the dram-shop exception against a vendor who willfully and unlawfully sold alcohol to an underage patron, resulting in the patron’s intoxication and related injury”.

At issue is the amount of liability that Main Street Entertainment, Inc., also known as Potbelly’s, is responsible for in relation to Jacquelyn Faircloth’s injuries.

The Florida First District Court of Appeal ruled in February that Potbelly’s was wrongfully denied the opportunity to use the “comparative fault defense” and the “alcohol defense” during the civil trial in a lower court in Leon County in 2019.

A 2019 Leon County court ruled that Faircloth’s guardianship was eligible to receive a nearly $29 million judgement that was to be jointly paid by Potbelly’s and Cantina 101.

After the court of appeal granted the Faircloth guardianship’s certification of a question of great public importance in a June ruling, the guardianship then filed documents to the state supreme court requesting a review February’s ruling.

In November of 2014, Cantina 101 was a restaurant that served 18-year-old Faircloth alcoholic beverages.

The legal age to consume alcoholic beverages in Florida is 21 years old.

At the time of the 2019 decision, Cantina 101 was no longer in operation.

Faircloth was a pedestrian who was struck and injured by Devon Dwyer.

Dwyer, who was age 20 at the time of the incident, received alcoholic beverages from his then employer Potbelly’s.

Dwyer, who was under the influence of alcohol, drove a vehicle and struck Faircloth on West Pensacola Street. The injuries sustained by Faircloth were catastrophic.

In 2016, Dwyer pled no contest, was adjudicated guilty and sentenced to nearly three years in a state prison and received probation.

Florida’s comparative fault statute allows an entity/business that is at fault for injuries sustained by a person to reduce the amount of pay owed if the entity is partially at fault.

The dram shop exception notes if an establishment provides alcoholic beverages to someone who is underage to consume alcoholic drinks, then the entity is liable to be sued.

The alcohol defense notes if a plaintiff was under the influence of alcohol that was beyond the legal limit or their normal functions were impaired and “as a result of the influence of such alcoholic beverage or drug, the plaintiff was more than 50 percent at fault for his or her own harm” the plaintiff may not receive any damages in a civil lawsuit.