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Settlement reached in racetrack lawsuit

February 10, 2004|by DAVE McMILLION

charlestown@herald-mail.com

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - A suit filed against owners of Charles Town Races & Slots alleging a slots patron was overserved alcohol before getting into a traffic accident in 1999 has been settled, attorneys involved in the case said Monday.

The settlement means the case will not have to go before a jury for trial today.

Attorneys for the track and Donna Jackson, a Hagerstown woman who brought the suit, said they could not comment on the terms of the settlement.

The settlement was "put on the record" in Jefferson County Judge Thomas W. Steptoe Jr.'s chambers Monday afternoon, said John C. Skinner Jr., who represents Jackson.

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George Stewart, who represents Penn National Gaming Inc., the parent company of Charles Town Races & Slots, said any comment on the settlement would be "premature."

On the same day that attorneys announced the settlement, Jackson walked for the first time since the accident, Skinner said.

Jackson, whose legs were injured in the crash, took three steps Monday on her own while she was working with a physical therapist, Skinner said.

"You can imagine how excited she is," Skinner said.

The accident occurred about four years ago on U.S. 340 near the Shenandoah River bridge.

On the night of Dec. 10, 1999, and the early morning hours of Dec. 11, 1999, Benjamin Napper was given free alcoholic drinks at the track to encourage him to gamble, according to allegations in the suit filed in Jefferson County Circuit Court.

The track "overserved" Napper until he was visibly intoxicated, the suit alleged.

When Jackson's vehicle was struck by Napper's car in the area of the U.S. 340 bridge near Harpers Ferry, W.Va., Jackson sustained massive injuries to her legs and head, suffered a punctured lung and collapsed lung and broken ribs, the suit said. Jackson's infant grandchild, who was in the car, had a broken leg, the suit said. Napper later pleaded guilty to DUI causing injury.

Jackson was seeking unspecified punitive and compensatory damages in the case.

In an attempt to find out who served Napper with drinks at the track, attorneys representing Jackson requested "time sheets" from the track to determine who was working that night.

An employee who was shredding documents at the track mistakenly shredded the time sheets, a track official testified in a hearing last week.

Attorneys for Jackson filed a lengthy motion last Wednesday asking for sanctions against the track because the time sheets were destroyed.

On Thursday, lawyers said they were close to reaching a settlement. Steptoe gave the lawyers until Monday afternoon to present the agreement to him or the trial would have started today.

The suit also alleged the plaintiffs had a copy of a memo sent out by a track official who told track employees to ignore the "two free drinks" promotion in favor of "unlimited complimentary drinks." The unlimited drinks were to be given to patrons who had credits built up in slot machines, the memo stated.

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