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Parties file motions to dismiss lawsuit after MHS alum’s death

The parents of Mustang High School alum Marissa Murrow filed a wrongful death lawsuit Nov. 20, 2020 after their daughter died Oct. 3, 2020 from a head-on collision.
Jeff and Kristine Murrow initially filed against Malcolm Penney, 40, of Oklahoma City, his wife Amanda Penney and The Springs Events LLC in Edmond. Recently, several more parties, Weathercoat Security and Boulevard Steakhouse, Inc., have been added to the lawsuit.
The Springs and Weathercoat have filed a motion to dismiss theplaintiffs’ case.
Malcolm Penney was operating a vehicle Oct. 2, 2020 that entered the John Kilpatrick Turnpike, driving northbound, which was the wrong way, and collided with Marissa Murrow’s vehicle, which was correctly driving in the southbound lanes, according to accident reports.
Penney is alleged to have been intoxicated after leaving a wedding and reception ceremony at The Springs. The case’s petition stated Penney had been consuming alcohol for nearly 10 hours at the event.
Penney is also alleged to have been charged with four driving under the influence offenses in different courts. He has pled guilty of public intoxication in Carter County January 2013, as well. Penney’s jury trial is set for Sept. 13 on second-degree murder and leaving the scene of a fatality accident charges.
Penney is presumed innocent at this time.
The Murrows are seeking more than $75,000 in damages for all parties’ negligence.
Attorney Heath Garwood, who is representing The Springs, was the first to argue during the dismissal hearing July 23 in Canadian County Court. Penney voluntarily got behind the wheel intoxicated, he said.
In Oklahoma, the resulting injuries of an intoxicated driver are extended only to the individual and retail alcohol providers, Garwood noted.
His client is not applicable to the injuries, as they did not serve alcohol, Garwood stated. The defense attorney provided several cases of common law negligence.
In Pate v. Alian, a plaintiff was injured by a motorist who became intoxicated at a Pizza Inn. The injured party sued the manager, the local franchise and Pizza Inn, Inc.
Their argument stated the franchise’s safety policies gave way to liability. However, the court ruled neither defendant owed any duty to the plaintiff.
Garwood also mentioned Warren v. Teel, where a plaintiff said he was assaulted by an intoxicated pledge at a University of Oklahoma fraternity house. A suit was brought against the local chapter, as well as the national fraternity. The judge dismissed the motion against the national fraternity, as they did not serve alcohol. There were also arguments about whether the local chapter provided alcohol.
“The Civil Court of Appeals found that regardless of whether or not the chapter served alcohol to the intoxicated individual, at most, he was a social host,” Garwood said.
The last case Garwood referenced was Rogers v. Anheuser-Busch, Inc. Representatives of someone who died brought a wrongful death suit against Anheuser-Busch, who was a wholesaler and sponsor of an event at Tumbleweed Bar.
A person became
intoxicated at the bar, which led to the death, Garwood said. It was alleged the person was over-served.
The court found that since Anheuser-Busch did not serve alcohol to the individual, a duty was not established. There was also no duty within the franchise agreement, according to the court’s ruling.
“The implication of a duty and tort has to be separate than the terms of a contract,” Garwood said.
He also said neither The Springs’ nor Weathercoat’s contracts specifically use terms that would benefit the public or motorists. The attorney went on to add how he found it difficult to understand why a social host would be immune to a civil suit and a venue host, such as the Springs, would not.
“I can see the implications of holding duty exists far more reaching than holding the social host who provided alcohol would be liable,” Garwood said.
Oklahoma’s Dram Shop Laws allow plaintiffs to hold the person who got the driver drunk accountable for any resulting injuries in some circumstances. Attorney Kevin Cunningham, who is representing the Murrows, explained Dram Shop as Party A being a provider of alcohol to Party B who consumes the alcohol and injures someone else.
He said this relationship is not occupied by The Springs or Weathercoat, rather Boulevard Steakhouse, as they were the licensed bartender at the event.
“We are not alleging The Springs served alcohol at all,” Cunningham said.
The attorney said the cases Garwood presented referenced a different relationship than the plaintiffs are alleging against The Springs and Weathercoat, as they are about service of alcohol. Plaintiffs have alleged specific policies were breached against the two.
“Had The Springs and Weathercoat enforced their policies that were in place for this case, we wouldn’t be here,” Cunningham said. “Marissa would not have died.”
The claim against The Springs is negligence. Cunningham said there are multiple duties property owners owe to others.
The first being a general duty to not harm others while they’re on the property. Owners also have a duty to not allow there to be hazards on public roads, he said.
These duties do not arise from The Springs’ policies, rather they are independent, due to the venue voluntarily allowing certain conduct to occur on its property, Cunningham said.
“They specifically can say, ‘Hey, no alcohol at all,’” he said. “But they haven’t.”
The Springs’ policy also indicates it can “eject objectionable persons.” Cunningham mentioned Penney reportedly threw a beer bottle at his wife and was escorted away by security.
“He’s not kicked out,” he said. “The police aren’t called.”
Cunningham also inquired why an Uber wasn’t called.
A bartender also reportedly said Penney was visibly intoxicated. The attorney added that foreseeability of DUI was present, as not everyone can remain at the venue.
The Springs also does not allow outside alcoholic beverages. However, Cunning-ham provided a photo of a wedding attendee holding a Blue Moon, which was not on the bartender’s menu, of which he also showed an image.
Cunningham would like Judge Jack McCurdy to deny both motions to dismiss and enter into discovery for further investigation to occur.
“I believe the discovery will show this may be a larger problem than just one incident,” he said.
Cunningham also mentioned there are other local venues, such as the Rustic Rose Barn and Aspen Ranch, that are interested in how the case turns out, as they would like to know if there is accountability to minimize the risk of DUI drivers. The attorney argued each of the five defendants are in some way responsible for the fatal event and would like a jury to determine how much responsibility they had.
Attorney Monty Bottom, who is representing Weathercoat, said his client never had Penney’s vehicle or his keys.
“That wasn’t what we were there for,” he said.
Bottom also stated Penney had pled guilty when he didn’t. Penney pled not guilty in May.
“Any representation that he’s pled guilty is either misleading or at least doesn’t reflect any sort of effort to see what happened,” Cunningham said.
McCurdy said he will review the case and then deliver a judgment.

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