Caden Nieneker Killed in Austin, TX, Single-Vehicle Accident
Austin, TX -- December 18, 2016, Caden Nieneker was killed following an accident where the vehicle in which he was riding crashed off-road.
The Austin Police Department released a report concerning the fatal accident that occurred around 3:40 a.m. near the intersection of Highway 71 and Covered Bridge Drive.
According to their investigations, 17-year-old Nieneker was a passenger in a BMW that was traveling eastbound on the highway. The driver of the car, 20-year-old Franklyn Montes De Oca, somehow lost control of the vehicle. The car veered off the roadway and ran into a tree.
Nieneker had critical injuries following the collision, and responding medical crews pronounced him dead at the scene.
De Oca fled the scene following the crash, but he later returned to the scene. Authorities say charges are pending against him, including possible intoxication related charges. Toxicology tests are still pending.
Current reports indicate that Nieneker and the others in the car had been at a party prior to the accident. Some accounts indicate that a fight broke out, forcing them to leave the party. These reports are still being investigated.
No further information has been released at this time.
Map of the Area
Going by the reports about the events prior to this accidents, Mr. De Oca and the others were at a party that was serving alcohol. In fact, Austin news stations have obtained copies of a flier that they say allegedly offer "free drinks" to party-goers. So we allegedly have a party, advertised in a flier, that targets young people and promises "free drinks?" We can be fairly certain that those free drinks weren't Yoohoo! and Kool-Aid.
In Texas, accidents involving unlawful alcohol service fall under the umbrella of Dram Shop Law. In Dram Shop Law, there are two ways that someone who serves alcohol can be held liable for an accident. The first scenario is when a licensed establishment--bars, restaurants, liquor stores, etc.--over-serve alcohol to an adult who is obviously intoxicated. If that person causes harm to themselves or others as a result of their intoxication, the establishment can be held liable.
The key standard that determines whether or not a bar or restaurant broke the law is whether they "serve an obviously intoxicated person who was a danger to themselves or others." In the vast majority of dram shop cases this is the standard that applies. However, most people are unaware that like in most other areas of the law, minors are treated differently. This applies not only to bars and restaurants, but a class of people known as social hosts.
Social hosts are adults, hosting other adults at their homes who make alcohol available to their guests. It doesn't matter if these hosts are breaking out beer bongs and lining up rows of shots for their adult guests, if one of the guests injures someone on the way home, the homeowner has zero liability under Texas law. However, if the intoxicated person is a minor, that changes things.
When it comes to adults illegally serving alcohol to minors in Texas, the law is quite different. For starters, the standard for liability isn't obvious intoxication, but any amount of alcohol that contributes to the accident. The reason for this is because Texas Law recognizes that minors cannot reasonably know their limits when it comes to alcohol, and they cannot legally obtain alcohol in the first place. Allowing a minor to illegally consume alcohol is by definition negligence.
Not only is there a lower standard for when Dram Shop Laws kick for minors, but that social host exemption that I mentioned earlier no longer applies. While adults are free to engage in whatever Romanesque bacchanalia their hearts desire with other adults, the moment they give even one drink to a minor that isn't their own child, or allow alcohol to be available to them, their social host protection is gone and they can face liability for any harm that comes to that child as a result of drinking.
A parent deciding for their child whether or not they can drink is one thing. But an adult who doesn't have custody of a minor providing them with alcohol is illegal for a reason. People who violate this law create circumstances which can lead to accidents just like this one, and people can be hurt and killed due to their negligence. When someone's negligent decisions affect people's lives like this, they need to be held accountable for their actions. In these situations, Dram Shop Law is a tool to hold wrong-doers and those who fail to uphold the standards of our community accountable for their actions.
--Grossman Law Offices