Family of man who died in fight sues Northway bar for $1 million

Plaintiff hopes action will teach bar owners to take responsibility

Posted: Tuesday, January 04, 2005

FAIRBANKS - The family of a man who died in a fight is suing a Northway bar for serving a patron long after he became intoxicated and allowing other patrons to buy him drinks.

John Carl Ervin, 39, died two years ago after getting in a fight with Neal Jensen, who threw him to the ground outside the Northway Airport Lodge.

The lawsuit, which seeks $1 million, was filed on behalf of Ervin's estate. In addition to Jensen, it names Northway Airport Services, the Northway Airport Lodge and its owners Jim and Rose Moody as being responsible for Ervin's death.

Karin Hocking, who is Ervin's sister, said she hopes the lawsuit will teach rural bars to take more responsibility for their patrons' actions. She said her brother was doing laundry at the lodge and drinking a few beers when the fight erupted.

"It's not about the money. It's about what happened," she said. "Society needs to assure that bar owners and their staff take responsibility to protect their patrons from violence that is perpetuated by intoxicated individuals on their property."

Anchorage attorney Michael Graper, who filed the lawsuit on behalf of Ervin's family, said Jensen had tried picking a fight with several people at the bar that night, accusing other men of sleeping with his girlfriend.

Instead of cutting Jensen off, the bartender continued to serve him alcohol, Graper said.

"They let him be in there even though he's fighting and yelling and everything else," he said.

Ervin tried interfering with an argument between Jensen and his girlfriend. Jensen and Ervin took the argument outside where it escalated into a fight.

Graper said accounts of the fight determined that when Jensen threw Ervin to the ground, it caused his fatal injuries.

Hocking said her brother was placed into his truck after the fight. When someone later checked on Ervin, he was having problems breathing and an ambulance was called. He died shortly afterward.



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