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The case against Potbelly's bar in Tallahassee goes to the Florida Supreme Court

The front of Potbelly's bar near down Tallahassee.
Craig Moore
/
WFSU Public Media
Potbelly's bar is being sued for serving alcohol to an underage customer who then hit an 18-year-old woman with his pickup truck. The woman, who had also been drinking, was permanently injured.

The guardian for a woman who suffered catastrophic injuries when she was hit by a pickup truck in 2014 has taken a legal fight with a Tallahassee bar to the Florida Supreme Court.

The guardian for Jacquelyn Faircloth filed a notice this week that is a first step in asking the Supreme Court to take up the dispute with the owners of Potbelly’s, a bar near the Florida State University campus.

Faircloth, who was 18 at the time of the accident, was intoxicated after drinking alcohol at the Cantina 101 establishment in Tallahassee, according to court documents. She was struck by a pickup driven by Devon Dwyer, then 20, who had been drinking at Potbelly’s.

Faircloth’s guardian filed a lawsuit against owners of both establishments, alleging that they illegally served alcohol to underage people and caused the accident, according to a February ruling by the 1st District Court of Appeal.

A circuit judge issued a default judgment against Cantina 101 for failing to respond and later entered a $28.6 million judgment jointly and severally against the bars, which meant both could be legally responsible for paying all the damages.

But in an appeal, the owners of Potbelly’s argued, in part, that the circuit judge had improperly rejected what is known as a “comparative fault” defense, which could lead to determining a share of fault. A panel of the appeals court agreed, saying the case involved a question of negligence, which would allow for comparative fault.

The appeals-court decision directed the case back to circuit court for a jury to consider Potbelly’s degree of fault. The guardian is challenging the appeals-court decision at the Supreme Court. As is common, the notice filed this week does not provide detailed arguments.