Supreme Court gives victim new hope in case against Los Lunas Chili’s

Mary Ann Madrid next to a roadside descanso for her friend, Quin Sanchez, who was killed in 2006 by a drunk driver (courtesy: Mary Ann Madrid).

SANTA FE (KRQE) – The New Mexico Supreme Court has come down with an opinion that brings new life to a woman’s case against Chili’s Bar & Grill, the restaurant’s parent corporation and an employee for a fatal 2006 crash.

The crash happened on August 27, 2006 in Belen when a drunk driver, Jacob Williams, careened into a motorcycle driven by Quin Sanchez with passenger Mary Ann Madrid on the back.

Sanchez was killed at the scene when Williams’ car hit the pair. Madrid was left unable to walk and now uses a wheelchair.

“The next thing I remember is…waking up in a hospital after being a couple weeks in a coma,” Madrid said.

Williams was sentenced to six years, but only served three, for the crash. He is now back in prison for an eerily similar crash involving a different motorcyclist and his daughter, where he was again drunk, in January 2014. That second crash killed the driver of the motorcycle and left the man’s 11-year-old daughter severely injured.

But Madrid says Williams is not the only one to blame for the crash she was involved in.

She filed a lawsuit that says Chili’s Bar & Grill, Brinker International and an employee are partly to blame.

“They should be, she should have been trained on knowing when to stop serving liquor,” she said.

That’s where she and Sanchez were prior to the crash, having drinks. The lawsuit says that Chili’s over-served alcohol to Sanchez and thus impaired him from properly reacting to the collision with Williams.

“Nothing will ever bring Quin back, or you know, help me walk tomorrow,” she said.

The lawsuit argues that Sanchez, had he not been over-served, would have maneuvered around Williams’ vehicle or that he would have reacted in such a way that would have lessened the impact, possibly saving his life.

Initially, a District Court judge and the Court of Appeals both said some of the evidence against Chili’s was inadmissible and that the case couldn’t be proved. But, as of Thursday, the Supreme Court reversed that decision.

The Justices said that evidence that was thrown out will be allowed. The case will now go back to District Court so that a judge can rule in an opinion consistent with the Justices’ decision to bring back the evidence.

That brings hope to Madrid.

“I was happy, it’s been nine years too long,” Madrid said.

If found liable for the crash, after the District Court judge rules, Chili’s could face a fine or “suspension of the license, or revocation of the license for both the establishment and the server,” according to Benjamin Cloutier, a representative with the New Mexico Alcohol and Gaming Department.

Cloutier said this Chili’s in Los Lunas has been in trouble before in 2006 and 2008 for serving alcohol to minors.

“With this whole new turnover with the Supreme Court, you know, understanding, I’m hoping and I’m praying I can go forward with my life after this is over with,” Madrid said.

A spokesperson for Chili’s Grill & Bar says Brinker does not discuss pending lawsuits.

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