Widow sues alleged drunk driver's employer in husband's death

November 22, 2011 4:12:44 PM PST
A family that lost a father in a crash with a suspected drunk driver is now suing a local country club. They say the suspect was drinking at work and no one there stopped him from getting behind the wheel.

The lawsuit accuses the Sterling Country Club at Houston National of gross negligence, something which a jury in the end will have to decide.

Johnnie Lampton III was just 28 years old when he died on the Northwest Freeway on August 18. He leaves behind a wife and a two-year-old daughter.

Will Womble, attorney for Lampton's widow, said, "She was fully expecting her dad to be sitting with her at Thanksgiving table two days from now. That's not going to happen."

According to investigators, Lampton was rear-ended by a vehicle going faster than his was. His SUV flipped. The other driver, Stephen Ellis, failed a field sobriety test.

"Blood alcohol contact came back to a .23 -- nearly three times the legal limit," Womble said.

Ellis is now charged with intoxication manslaughter. He told investigators he had been drinking where he worked -- Sterling Country Club at Houston National Golf Club. He was executive chef there.

According to the suit, Ellis got drunk there and was a clear danger to himself and others when he left that night. The suit alleges the country club knew this and didn't stop him, "that they engaged in a practice on this night and others of 'looking the other way' when Ellis would drink on the job."

The attorney who represents Ellis in his criminal case claims an eyewitness saw Lampton hit his brakes, contributing to the wreck. He says Ellis is empathetic to the widow, but innocent.

"He's very depressed," explained defense attorney Rick DeToto. "He's having a rough time. He feels remorse for the death of this individual."

The CEO for Sterling Country Club at National tells us the allegations are "100% false" and that Ellis made a poor decision -- drinking and driving.

The widow's attorney says there is no truth to the claim that an eyewitness saw Lampton slam on the brakes.

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