Bar included in lawsuit in fatal wreck
A bicyclist critically injured in a January 2012 accident on Perkins Road that claimed the life of a fellow cyclist is suing the suspected drunken driver accused of hitting the pair and a Baton Rouge bar where the driver allegedly drank before the crash.
Daniel Morris claims in a lawsuit that Joseph Branch drank “a number of alcoholic beverages” at The Bulldog on Jan. 21, and was “visibly intoxicated” prior to the accident that resulted in the death of Nathan Crowson.
The bar “engaged in affirmative acts that increased the peril” to Branch, “ultimately resulting in the subject incident,” Morris alleges in the suit filed Thursday in the 19th Judicial District Court.
Bulldog general manager Remi DeMatteo could not be reached for comment Friday.
State Alcohol and Tobacco Control Commissioner Troy Hebert said in February that ATC found no evidence showing the bar acted improperly.
Branch, 29, of Baton Rouge, had a blood-alcohol content of 0.307 percent at the time of the crash, police have said. A blood-alcohol level of 0.08 percent is considered presumptive evidence of drunken driving in Louisiana for those 21 and over.
Branch has pleaded not guilty to charges of vehicular homicide, first-degree vehicular negligent injuring and second-offense DWI. The next court date in his criminal case is April 4.
The Bulldog, 4385 Perkins Road, is listed as a witness in the criminal case, East Baton Rouge Parish Clerk of Court’s Office records show.
Crowson, 30, and Morris, his friend, were bicycling east in the 6100 block of Perkins Road near Quail Run Drive at 8:45 p.m. when Branch — driving a 2010 Kia Forte — slammed into them from behind and ran them over, police said.
Crowson, who worked for Mid City Bikes on Government Street, died at the scene. Morris was hospitalized with severe injuries to his lower body, police said. He suffered several broken bones.
Branch was booked for his first DWI on Aug. 3, 2006. His blood-alcohol content then was 0.241, City Court records indicate. He was originally given a 60-day suspended jail term for his first DWI, but that term was reinstated three days after the crash that killed Crowson and injured Morris, the records show. Branch was then allowed to post bond under the condition that he go directly from jail to an inpatient treatment facility. He has since completed that treatment.
Morris’ suit, which seeks an unspecified amount of damages from The Bulldog, Branch and their insurance companies, has been assigned to state District Judge Todd Hernandez.