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Record Damages for Death of Alabama Policeman

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Birmingham, ALA jury in Alabama was simply standing up for its community and following the rule of law when it awarded $37.5 million to the family of a young Huntsville police officer who was dispatched to investigate a 911 at a Mexican restaurant and then shot dead at point blank by the El Jalisco's intoxicated manager Benito Albarran, according to attorney Matthew Minner.

"It was incredibly violent," says Minner, the attorney for the family of Officer Daniel Golden, as he gives a vivid account of the 911 call played during the trial. One of the employees was on the phone to police as Albarran rampaged through the restaurant then walked outside and mortally wounded officer Golden.

The officer was on the ground, his gun had jammed and Albarran realized the situation was to his advantage. "He just strolls across the parking lot and put the gun to the head of Officer Golden and pulled the trigger," says a solemn and serious Matthew Minner.

The jury found Albarran bore the majority of the responsibility for Officer Golden's wrongful death, but it found the El Jalisco restaurant partly responsible and ordered it to pay $12.5 million of the $37.5 million judgment.

Most people know that licensed establishments can be held to account for harm done when they serve minors or continue to serve intoxicated patrons, but the so-called Dram Shop Laws, which apply in as many as 20 US states, also say licensed establishments can be held accountable for the consequences when they allow employees to drink on the job.

"It was 3 o'clock in the afternoon when Officer Golden was called to a restaurant in a good part of town," says Minner. "He was anticipating a domestic dispute." Instead he encountered an employee known to regularly drink on the job.

The defense disputed the restaurant had a role and argued that the shooting was the act of one very angry and violent person. But Minner and his co-counsel, Jamie Moncus, from the firm of Hare, Wynn, Newton and Newell from Birmingham, countered that El Jalisco was in violation of the law.

"That's what the law says in the state of Alabama," says Minner, known for his often tough and innovative approach. "It is the responsibility of a licensed establishment to sell and serve alcohol in a responsible way. That is the key. They have to do it in a responsible way and if someone is hurt or injured, they share responsibility for it."

Albarran is now on death row and it seems unlikely he has sufficient assets to cover the $25 million judgment against him. El Jalisco, now closed, has insurance, but Minner says the important part of the wrongful death suit for the Golden family was to send a message.

Matthew Minner is a graduate of the Vanderbilt School of Law. He practices in the areas of serious personal injury, wrongful death, product liability and medical malpractice. He has a nationwide practice and has recovered millions of dollars for clients.


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