The widow of a Corpus Christi police officer killed in January during a traffic stop filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Wonders Bar and Grill and two intoxicated drivers. The lawsuit, which sought in excess of $10 million in damages, was settled in July for an undisclosed amount.
On January 31, 2020, while on duty Officer Alan McCollum observed a Ford F250 traveling westbound on State Highway 358 at speeds in excess of 100 mph. Officer McCollum conducted a traffic stop on the vehicle, driven by Christopher Litke. After reaching speeds of 120 mph, Litke finally pulled over on the right shoulder at 3700 block of State Highway 58. Litke was impaired by drugs and/or alcohol at the time of the traffic stop. When Officer McCollum exited his patrol vehicle to approach Litke’s vehicle, he was struck by a Black Chevrolet Silverado causing him to be thrown over the highway railing. Officer McCollum landed on the access road below the highway and died as a result of the crash. Brandon Portillo, the driver of the Chevrolet Silverado, was also intoxicated at the time of the deadly collision. Another officer was severely injured as a result of the incident as well.
The lawsuit stated that prior to the deadly crash, Portillo was at Wonders Bar and Grill, where he was served 18 drinks, 16 of which were served by the same bartender, before getting into his vehicle and driving away. While at the bar, Portillo exhibited obvious signs of intoxication and presented a clear danger to himself and others. Managers, bartenders, and other employees of Wonders Bar and Grill noticed and observed Portillo’s apparent signs of intoxication yet continued to serve Portillo alcohol.
Portillo was arrested and charged with multiple intoxication related felonies, including intoxication manslaughter for causing the death of Police Officer McCollum, which is a first-degree felony. A 24-year old bartender, employed by Wonders Bar and Grill at the time, was also arrested for selling alcohol to an intoxicated person, which is a Class A misdemeanor.
Under Texas law, specifically the Texas Dram Shop Act, a suit can be filed against a bar and/or restaurant for injuries or death caused by an intoxicated person, if: (1) the establishment served an obviously intoxicated person, (2) the intoxication of the illegally served patron was the proximate cause of the incident, and (3) the injuries or death, and any civil damages that are being sought, resulted from the incident. Although a settlement was reached between Officer McCollum’s widow and the parties, Officer McCollum’s family and the Corpus Christi Community will never be the same.
If you or someone you know has been injured as a result of an intoxicated driver, contact the experienced attorneys at Abraham, Watkins, Nichols, Agosto, Aziz & Stogner at (713) 222-7211 or toll free at 713-222-7211.