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Skooners Bar Hit with Civil Suit Over Wrongful Death of 19-Year-Old Student

— February 11, 2021

A Lubbock bar is under fire in a wrongful death lawsuit after an intoxicated patron caused a fatal accident.

For many parents, losing a child is unthinkable. For many, losing their only child is unbearable. Unfortunately, one mother experienced such a tragedy last month when she lost her only child in a drunk driving accident and is no filing a civil lawsuit. According to the lawsuit, a drunk driving accident claimed the life of Jessica Helmer, a 19-year-old student at Texas Tech. In the suit, Helmers’ mother alleges the staff at Skooners knew the driver responsible for the accident, Gabriel Zerrara, was visibly intoxicated but kept serving him drinks anyway. In fact, the “company encourages this” type of behavior, the suit claims.

Beer Tap
Beer Tap; image courtesy of StockSnap via Pixabay,

When commenting on the lawsuit, attorney Brad Porter said he hopes the suit “Will send a message to bars who overserve alcohol.” He added:

“Not just focusing on Skooners, but any bar involved in this situation. It’s not letting them get out on the road that is important. It’s allowing them to get drunk in their facility to begin with. That’s what shouldn’t occur. And when they allow someone to get obviously intoxicated at their establishment, then there is a price to pay.”

According to the lawsuit, Zerrata left the bar visibly intoxicated, prompting several agencies to launch investigations into the matter. For example, police detectives and the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission (TABC) are getting involved. Despite this, Porter said it’s not enough and added:

“They could pull their license, suspend their license, there is a whole bunch of administrative remedies, but again, this doesn’t give the family any answers or compensate them for their loss.”

Porter also noted there are loopholes in current TABC rules that could cause a similar incident to happen down the road. He said, “Oftentimes, these bar owners can reapply in a different name, different way, and get their bar back up and running in a different name,” Porter said

For now, Porter is working to bring closure for Helmers’ mother, who had to go through the horrific experience of burying her only child. He said:

“These cases aren’t about the money; no amount of money will ever bring their loved one back. But what these lawsuits do is, number one, answer a lot of questions…but most importantly, if laws were violated, to hold these establishments accountable so hopefully, their conduct will change and hopefully something tragic like this doesn’t happen again in the future.”

What about Zerrata? What type of consequences is he facing as a result of the fatal accident? Well, for starters, he is facing criminal charges of manslaughter and aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. He could be looking at up to 40 years in prison if convicted.


Mother files civil lawsuit against Skooners claiming wrongful death of her only

Lubbock bar and driver both sued, $1 million or more for death of Texas Tech student Jessica Helmers

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