The mother of Courtney Griffin, killed in 2011 by former Capitol staffer Gabrielle Nestande in a hit-and-run on Exposition Boulevard, filed suit against Nestande today, alleging negligence and seeking more than $1 million in damages.
Griffin's mother, Laurie, is also suing Clive Bar, where Nestande had been drinking the evening before she hit and killed Griffin, a 30-year-old veterinary technician. The bar knowingly served Nestande after it was clear she was already drunk, "was obviously intoxicated and presented a clear danger to herself and to others," the suit alleges.
Video of Nestande at the bar and a copy of her tab – she purchased five beers as well as a vodka and diet soda – were used as evidence in her criminal trial last month. According to Nestande, she was not drunk when she hit Griffin, but was instead distracted – she'd looked down briefly at her phone when something hit her car; initially, she said, she thought someone had thrown a rock at her car. Nestande did not investigate further, did not stop, and did not call police, even though her windshield was caved in by the force of the hit. Griffin was tossed into a bush and bled out on the street; her body was not discovered until around 5am the next morning.
Although Nestande had been charged with manslaughter, intoxication manslaughter, and failure to stop and render aid, a jury convicted Nestande only of criminally negligent homicide, sentencing her to 10 years probation. Among those incensed by the verdict was Austin Police Department Chief Art Acevedo, who sympathized with Griffin's family and suggested that a "history of permissiveness in our community as it relates to holding criminal suspects accountable for their actions," was behind the arguably lighter punishment (indeed, probation isn't exactly a picnic, and if she fails to comply Nestande can be shipped off to prison for the remainder of the sentence).
Laurie Griffin's attorney, Suzanne Kaplan of the law firm of Slack & Davis, said the lawsuit will help to make the community safer by "ensuring that drunk drivers and the bars that over-serve them pay for the injuries they cause."
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