Civil suit filed in DWI crash, Wolfeboro Inn charged with serving alcohol to driver
By BEA LEWIS, for The Laconia Daily Sun
OSSIPEE — A Carroll County woman facing multiple felony charges had a blood alcohol concentration of more than four times the legal limit when she crossed the center line and plowed into an oncoming car on Route 28 in Wolfeboro, claims a lawsuit filed on behalf of her victims.
Sarah Kelley 32, whose last known address was in Tuftonboro, was scheduled to appear in Carroll County Superior Court on Feb. 13, but only her public defender showed up for the status conference and met privately at the bench with the judge and prosecutors.
Kelley who has pleaded not guilty and remains free on $10,000 personal recognizance bail is reportedly back in the hospital after experiencing complications from the severe injuries she sustained in the Feb. 25, 2015, crash.
Following the brief sidebar with Judge Amy Ignatius, Assistant Carroll County Attorney Matthew Conley would only say that the state was unsure of Kelley's condition, and had agreed to continue the hearing until March 28 at 9 a.m.
In August, Kelley was indicted on 13 charges, the most serious first-degree assault causing serious bodily injury to a child under age 13. She has also been charged with five counts of second-degree assault, reckless conduct and six counts of aggravated DWI, alleging alternate theories.
Tannah Curtis of Dover, and her then 10-year-old daughter, Shylah were heading south near the intersection of Trotting Track Road, about 12:30 p.m., when Kelley who was traveling northbound crossed into the oncoming lane and struck them head-on along a section of highway that has a posted speed limit of 55 mph, police charge.
State investigators determined that Kelley has just downed two potent cocktails within 15 minutes, and also had "drugs in her urine."
Attorney James Nadeau of Portsmouth, asserts in a civil suit filed on behalf of Tannah Curtis that she suffered severe and permanent injuries including a broken right knee cap, a fractured L5 vertebrae, in herlower back, and lacerations to her liver.
Attorney Michael Rainboth, who represents Shylah Curtis, claims his client sustained facial fractures and scarring, as well as a broken right hand and right foot. Both plaintiffs have undergone recurrent surgical procedures, resulting in extensive hospital and medical expenses and will continue to need treatment in the future.
The lawsuit names HCC Wolfeboro LLC, doing business as the Wolfeboro Inn as the defendant, and charges they had a duty to properly supervise and train their employees in the proper way to serve alcohol and not to serve anyone who was intoxicated.
Kelley was an employee of the inn at the time of the accident and worked as a banquet bartender. Investigators with the New Hampshire State Liquor Commission determined that Kelley had rented a room at the inn the prior night and that the morning of the crash, she ordered and drank at least two Long Island ice tea cocktails at the inn bar.
She left the 90 N. Main St. property at 12:14 p.m. and the crash was reported at 12:31 p.m. The Liquor Commission concluded its investigation with a finding that the Wolfeboro Inn had committed the crime of prohibited sales for serving alcohol "to a visibly intoxicated person, or who a reasonable and prudent person would know is intoxicated, resulting in three personal injuries."
Kelley was critically injured in the crash and was initially on life support, according to Liquor Commission records.
As a result of the investigation into alcohol sales, the inn entered into an agreement with the state to pay a $1,500 fine, with $500 suspended for one year, pending no similar violations. The inn's liquor license was also suspended for five days, with one day held in abeyance.
Under the terms of the settlement, the inn did not admit wrongdoing or liability.
In response to the allegations in the civil suit, attorney Stephen Duggan of Boston wrote in court filings that the inn denies any and all claims for liability, or that it was negligent. Duggan has argued that there is sufficient evidence to include Kelley on the jury verdict form as a responsible party and that her own conduct was to
He asserts that the defendant's employee who served Kelley did not know, or reasonably should not have known that Kelley was allegedly intoxicated when she was served alcohol.
At the time of service, the employee was adhering to responsible business practices and was unaware that a toxicology report would later show that Kelley had "other drugs" in her system, that were not provided by the defendant or its agent.
Duggan further claims that an investigation shows that Kelley may have additional alcohol not provided by the inn.
Following the crash, Kelley had a blood alcohol concentration of 0.35, more than four times the legal limit for driving in New Hampshire of 0.08, Duggan claims in the suit.
The indictments returned against Kelley alleges that she was also impaired by marijuana and benzodiazepine, a class of tranquilizing prescription drugs such as Valium.
The lawsuit seeks an enhanced monetary award on behalf of the plaintiffs based on allegations that the conduct of the inn and its agents was "wanton, willful and grossly negligent."
The parties are scheduled to complete mediation with a paid judicial referee in an effort to reach an out of court settlement by Nov. 1, 2017. If an agreement cannot be negotiated, the case is scheduled for a two to three-day trial to start in early December.
A Dover woman has filed a lawsuit against the Wolfeboro Inn claiming they negligently served alcohol to a motorist who crashed into her head-on causing severe injuries. The inn denies any wrongdoing. (Bea Lewis/for The Laconia Daily Sun)