Larry Womble lawsuit over 2011 accident has been settled

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WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — The legal drama surrounding a fatal crash that left former state Rep. Larry Womble seriously injured is over, according to the Winston-Salem Journal.

On Thursday, attorneys for Womble filed in Forsyth Superior Court a notice of voluntary dismissal with prejudice of a lawsuit that Womble filed in 2013 against Sixth & Vine bar and restaurant and the estate of David Allen Carmichael, the man killed in the 2011 crash. A lawsuit being dismissed with prejudice means that Womble cannot refile the complaint.

“The matter has been resolved, and the terms of the settlement are confidential,” said Dudley Witt, one of Womble’s attorneys, in a statement. In a phone interview, Witt said he could not comment further about the settlement.

Womble, in a statement, said he is glad the lawsuit has been resolved.

“With this behind me, I look forward to putting a very difficult time in my life behind me as I continue to rehabilitate from my injuries,” he said. “I hope that the resolution of this lawsuit will allow the Carmichael family to have closure as well.”

R. Kenneth Babb, the administrator of Carmichael’s estate, did not return a message seeking comment. Katherine Barber-Jones, one of the attorneys for Sixth & Vine, said she had no comment on the settlement.

Womble had served as a Democratic member of the N.C. House of Representatives since 1995. He decided in 2012 not to run for re-election because of his injuries. Former Winston-Salem City Council Member Evelyn Terry successfully sought Womble’s seat and now represents House District 71.

Womble was initially charged with misdemeanor death by motor vehicle in the Dec. 2, 2011, accident, with police alleging that Womble crossed the center line on Reynolds Park Road and crashed into the car driven by Carmichael, 54. But Steven M. Arbogast, a state prosecutor with the N.C. Attorney General’s Office, voluntarily dismissed the charge after further investigation, including an accident reconstruction, indicated that it was Carmichael’s car that crossed the center line.

Womble alleged in the lawsuit that Carmichael had consumed a large amount of alcohol at Sixth & Vine on the night of the accident and left the restaurant “in an extremely intoxicated condition.” Just after 11 p.m., Carmichael got in his car and started driving home. While in the eastbound lane in the 2600 block of Reynolds Park Road, Carmichael crossed the center line and collided head-on with Womble’s car in the westbound lane.

According to the lawsuit, toxicology reports showed that Carmichael had a blood-alcohol level of 0.29 percent, more than three times the legal limit of 0.08 percent. The lawsuit said that Carmichael had three separate receipts from Sixth & Vine in his pockets, all dated Dec. 2, 2011, with the last receipt issued to Carmichael about 20 minutes before the accident.

The lawsuit alleged that Sixth & Vine kept serving Carmichael alcohol despite evidence that Carmichael was intoxicated. The lawsuit also alleged that the owners and managers of Sixth & Vine failed to properly train and supervise employees on the appropriate procedures for selling alcohol to visibly intoxicated customers.

Attorneys for Sixth & Vine denied the allegations in a response to the lawsuit and said that Womble contributed to the crash by driving recklessly, failing to stay in his lane and texting while driving, in violation of state law. Sixth & Vine’s attorneys also said that Carmichael didn’t buy alcohol that night, alleging that Carmichael had three receipts, none of which showed that Carmichael bought alcohol.

Carmichael’s estate never filed a response to the lawsuit.

It was the second time that Sixth & Vine had been sued in connection with a fatal crash involving alcohol. In 2008, the bar and restaurant settled with the family of Casey Bokhoven. Bokhoven was killed in 2007 when former WXII anchor Tolly Carr hit him with his car while driving drunk.

Womble sought more than $10,000 each in compensatory and punitive damages. David Freedman, also one of Womble’s attorneys, said Thursday that Womble, who is still in physical therapy, has limited mobility and occasionally uses a walker.

“Every day is a physical struggle for him,” he said. “Mentally, he is as sharp as he was prior to the accident. He’s engaged with everything that’s going on. He continues to have a remarkably positive outlook despite his condition. He is determined to fight back and improve.”