A second lawsuit has been filed against an Asheboro man charged with three deaths in a July 19 head-on collision in Orange County.
Chandler Michael Kania, 20, is accused of driving a Jeep Wrangler northbound in the southbound lanes of Interstate 85. The Jeep collided with a Suzuki near the I-40 split, killing three people: Jahnice Baird, 6, of Brooklyn, N.Y., and Felecia Harris, 49, and Darlene McGee, 46, both of Charlotte.
A 9-year-old child in the Suzuki survived.
The lawsuit, filed Aug. 18 on behalf of Baird’s mother, who lives in New York, seeks damages “in excess of $25,000” from Kania, his parents and two Chapel Hill businesses: He’s Not Here and La Residence, also known as “La Rez.”
The lawsuit, which identifies Baird as “Jahnice Beard,” also asks for a jury trial to determine punitive damages. It challenges as unconstitutional a state law that caps business damages at $500,000 when alcohol is sold to an underage person.
A similar lawsuit filed last month on behalf of McGee’s family was amended Monday to include Kania’s mother, Stephanie Borgard Kania, and the two businesses. That lawsuit initially named Kania and his father, Michael Kania.
Both lawsuits accuse Kania of driving carelessly and recklessly while impaired by alcohol and other substances and “in willful and wanton disregard of the rights and safety of others.”
Investigators have said his blood-alcohol level the night of the accident was 0.17 – more than twice the state’s legal limit for someone 21 and older – and that he had marijuana in his system.
Michael and Stephanie Kania are liable, the lawsuits argue, because Chandler Kania is considered a dependent living in the family home and because his mother and father jointly owned and maintained the Jeep involved in the accident as a family vehicle and for their son’s use.
Witnesses have told investigators that Kania drank alcohol at a party in Chapel Hill on July 18 before visiting He’s Not Here and La Residence restaurant, according to search warrants.
Investigators have retrieved surveillance video from La Residence, the warrants state, and a $14 credit card receipt in Kania's name from He’s Not Here. The receipt shows the bill was paid at 1:48 a.m. July 19, warrants state.
Both businesses are accused in the lawsuits of unlawfully selling alcohol to an intoxicated person who also was younger than 21. They’re also accused of being negligent in their duty to train employees, enforce policies and take “other reasonable steps” to prevent the sale of alcohol to an intoxicated and underage person, the lawsuits stated.
Chapel Hill police have responded to three alcohol-related incidents at He's Not Here and La Residence in the last 18 months. Both businesses also have faced the Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission before, officials said, and will face a review of any violations if they are cited with serving Kania.
A state Alcohol Law Enforcement operation on Aug. 27 included La Residence. The restaurant was not cited, police spokesman Lt. Josh Mecimore said. He’s Not Here was not a target of that operation but still faces an ABC Commission hearing for April violations involving sales to underage buyers. The bar could have its permit suspended for 50 days or pay a $5,000 fine in that incident, officials said.
The commission typically gives a business found in violation of state rules the option of paying a fine or having its permit temporarily suspended. The commission also can revoke a business’s permit.
Kania is charged with three counts of second-degree murder, three counts of felony death by motor vehicle, serious injury by motor vehicle, driving while impaired, careless and reckless driving, possessing an open container of alcohol, possession of alcohol by a person under age 21 and driving by a person less than 21 years old after consuming alcohol.
He is free on $1 million bail but under house arrest with an 8 p.m. to 8 a.m. curfew. While he would have been a junior in UNC’s advertising program this year, Kania is no longer enrolled, university officials said this week.