Couple who lost unborn son in crash with drunk driver awarded nearly $1.7M

by: Tenikka Smith Updated:

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. - A couple who lost their unborn son after a crash with a drunk driver nearly two years ago was awarded more than a million dollars in court. Even though the drunk driver died, a jury determined he was responsible, along with the bar that served him.

Eyewitness News spoke to the survivors, Matt and Meredith Eastridge, along with their attorney, Charles Monnett.

Monnett showed us surveillance video from October 2010 inside Eddie's Place Restaurant and Bar in Cotswold.

The video shows 25-year-old David Huffman at a bar having drinks. Monnett said in a two- hour span, Huffman was served four beers and six double Grand Marniers, which was the equivalent of 15 drinks.

The video goes on to show Huffman unsteady on his feet and at one point he bumped a chair and a wall on his way to the bathroom.

Huffman drove away from the restaurant and was killed about a mile away on Providence Road.

Police said he was speeding, lost control and crashed into the Eastridge's SUV.

"I had a collapsed lung." Matt Eastridge said, "My wife had lost 40 percent of her blood. Her uterus ruptured."

Meredith Eastridge was six months pregnant at the time, and the injuries from the crash claimed the life of her unborn son, whom the couple named Eli. "I know it's been two years since this happened, but the pain of losing him doesn't go away," she said.

The couple's attorney sued Huffman's estate and the restaurant he said negligently served alcohol to Huffman after he was already drunk. A jury agreed and awarded the couple nearly $1.7 million.

Monnett said, "We want bars and restaurants in our state to adopt responsible alcohol retailing policies."

Monnett also wants them to host regular training for staff who serve alcohol.

Eyewitness News spoke with the restaurant's attorney, Rick Pinto. He said Huffman was served four beers and four regular Grand Marniers, two of which were topped off twice.

Pinto said his bartender had more than 20 years' experience and restaurant employees made arrangements for someone else to drive Huffman home the night of the crash, but he ended up leaving on his own without their knowledge.

Pinto said, "They have never been cited for even one alcohol-related violation, so certainly they're a responsible restaurant and believe they acted responsibly and in accordance with state laws, rules and regulations on this occasion."

The Eastridges said the jury's verdict was fair. "Justice was served; it's a shame that it takes death to get to this point. These things can be prevented," Matt Eastridge said.

The Eastridges also made a $5,000 donation to the state office of Mothers Against Drunk Driving in memory of their son Eli.

Despite the severe damage to her uterus, in April the couple gave birth to a baby girl named Sloane.

The couple's attorney told Eyewitness News they are guaranteed to receive the full amount in less than a month.  Under the final agreement, the restaurant and Huffman's estate cannot file an appeal.