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Estate of Pawson v. Q Bar – Fatal Car Crash – Nicholas Cronauer

July 25 @ 10:30 AM - 1:30 PM PDT

During the early morning on June 28, 2015, Simmons was operating a 2008 Chevrolet Cobalt. Simmons’ blood alcohol concentration was .209 g/100mL, nearly three times the legal limit. With the decedent in the vehicle with him, Simmons lost control, left the roadway, and hit a tree. The results were horrific:

Both Simmons and the decedent were pronounced dead at the scene. Prior to their death Simmons and the decedent were at Q-Bar, a tavern operated by the Defendants in Plano, Illinois. Both Simmons and the decedent worked at Q-Bar, and had been working on the night before, clocking out near midnight, prior to the early morning crash on June 27, 2015. After Simmons and the decedent ended their shifts at Q-Bar, they left to go to a nearby tavern, Hard Daze, where they consumed alcohol, and the amount consumed is documented by the coroner. They then returned to Q-Bar to help their co-workers close down; per local ordinance, Q-Bar closed at 2:00am. Upon their return to Q-Bar, they continued to consume alcohol, including after the establishment was closed. Simmons and the decedent stayed at Q-Bar until approximately 3:45am. There time at the bar is well documented by Q Bar surveillance footage, which had management stepping over the driver laying down in a door way 11 minutes before he was allowed to drive off with the decedent.

Prior to Simmons and the decedent leaving, another person present that evening, Summer Holt, attempted to talk the decedent into riding with her. Holt even went so far as to follow Simmons’ vehicle home from the bar, eventually losing sight of it, presumably when it left the road. The Coroner testified death upon impact and before the fire. Summer Holt later described in a Facebook message to the Plaintiff:

I’ve been finding the words, and the way to answer any questions you may have. While we were closing, there was some small talk back about who’s taking [the decedent] home and I think they talked about hanging out at [the decedent’s] house after work to maybe continue drinking or just a place for [Simmons] to stay Bc it was really late. Well the plan was for me to take [the decedent] home Bc I haven’t been drinking & [Simmons] didn’t even finish his one drink he had but for some reason I offered Bc I just had this feeling, Something didn’t feel right. So [Simmons] wasn’t drunk by any means. But I told [Simmons] that he can follow us, I’m taking [the decedent] home, and then you guys can do whatever you want for the rest of the night. [Simmons] wasn’t angry or upset, he was just trying to show off. Once [the decedent] decided to get in [Simmons’] car I had the worst feeling in my stomach knowing something doesn’t seem right. At 4am a change of plans is never a good idea. So i followed them. And that’s when things went down hill. [Simmons] didn’t want to drive by himself & [the decedent] was as being a good friend but told him he will not get in the car if he drives all crazy. [Simmons] promised him he wouldn’t & that’s when I told [the decedent] to get in my car like 3-4 times and [Simmons] told me he’s a grown man, he can drive with [the decedent] in the car. So I said I was following them. & that’s when it all started. I’m so mad at myself for not fighting harder to get [the decedent] in my car, Laura I am so sorry I didnt stop this. Please let me know if you have any other questions! I would be more than happy to talk and help in any way!

Teachable moments:

1. Avoiding Illinois’ low dram shop limits through a negligence count;
2.. Usurping personal responsibility from the defense and owning it at trial;
3. Applying concepts from the Rex Parris College to this trial;
4. Using software to develop and identify the key and bad jurors that also convinced me to double my ask before the jury based on the analysis;
5. Framing the concept of money throughout trial so that the non-economic losses exceed the economic losses;
6. Adapting to the uncertainty of trial, a totally new defense made in opening statement that was not anticipated, using a deputy sheriff to bring in key witness that was never deposed to testify during trial after the trial Judge was not admitting a Facebook message into evidence, and having to adjust order of proofs because defense counsel would not agree to the admission of any exhibits or video without foundation testimony; and
7. Record verdict in a rural county despite serious facts that could support a high contributory negligence by a jury: a 25 year old decedent with no spouse, no children, no relationship with his father, no license, and an employment history that never exceeded $15,000 in annual wages.


July 25
10:30 AM - 1:30 PM PDT