HOUSTON—The family of a Conroe teen who was struck and killed by a drunk driver in 2011 has filed a lawsuit against Rick’s Cabaret, saying the company’s policy encourages workers to sell as many alcoholic beverages as possible, putting others in danger when intoxicated patrons leave the club.
Katherine "Emily" Jones was 18 years old when she died on March 30, 2011.
Jones, a senior at Caney Creek High School, was driving her pickup truck when she was hit from behind by a vehicle driven by Erasmo Ramirez of Houston.
Investigators said Ramirez, who had been at Rick’s Cabaret that night, was traveling about 130 mph without his headlights on when he smashed into Jones’ truck, dislodging the bed and crushing the cab.
Jones was rushed to the hospital, where she died about nine hours later of extensive blunt-force injuries and a subdural brain hemorrhage.
According to the lawsuit, filed by attorneys from The Lanier Law Firm, Ramirez had been kicked out of Rick’s 30 minutes prior to the crash after running out of money and refusing to pay for more drinks.
Investigators determined Ramirez’s blood-alcohol level was 0.295 at the time of the accident – more than three times the legal limit in Texas. He was charged with intoxication manslaughter and later sentenced to 15 years in prison.
The lawsuit alleges that Rick’s requires its entertainers to pay a nightly "house charge" in order to work at the club, and workers are encouraged to pay the fee by accumulating "credits" based on the number of drinks they sell.
The lawsuit claims that policy encourages workers to over-serve the club’s patrons – including intoxicated customers like Ramirez.
"Emily will never be able to realize the beautiful life she had ahead of her because a strip club wanted to make more money regardless of the dangers," says Houston attorney Mark Lanier, counsel for the Jones family and founder of The Lanier Law Firm. "We’re determined that those responsible for taking this young woman’s life will be held accountable."
"Rick’s had no problem serving him 15 or more drinks until he ran out of money, and then they put him in his own car, knowing he was intoxicated," attorney Gene Egdorf said.
"There’s got to be changes made. You can’t just let people go out and kill people. And you’re putting an intoxicated driver in a car, and that’s all they’re doing," Jones’ father, Ross Jones, said.
In addition to Rick’s Cabaret, Ramirez and Houston-based Trumps Inc., which maintains the club’s alcoholic beverage permit, were named as defendants in the lawsuit.
A spokesperson for Rick’s Cabaret said they could not comment on the lawsuit Monday.
"In reference to the news release issued by the law firm, Rick’s has not been served with any lawsuit, therefore, cannot comment at this time," the spokesperson said in an e-mailed statement to KHOU 11 News.