After Amanda

(This post was updated at 4 p.m. to include reaction from an attorney for one friend.)

Where do we start with the sad case of Amanda Jax, the legal adult who drank herself to death on her birthday? Our time to discuss it intelligently is short. Those being sued actually were served three weeks ago but the family had a news conference today. The subject is the stuff talk radio hosts dream of and once they awake, well, you know.

According to a story by MPR’s Art Hughes, five of her friends are among those being sued by the Jax family. Their alleged crime? They, not Amanda, bought the drinks for her.

The odds are Hannah Marie Becker, Richard Thomas Johnson, Per David Kvalsten, Kathryn Ann Lensing, and Jonathan Robert McIntyre are going to spend a lot more now on attorney fees, although homeowner’s insurance will likely cover the tab.

A description in the Mankato Free Press makes it hard to feel sorry for them:

An exhibit included in the paperwork is a picture (lawyer Alan Milavetz describes as Jax taking her last shot, a mixture of cherry vodka and an energy drink called a “cherry bomb,” with her friends and the bartender, Beau Ryan.

Those friends, also named as defendants in the lawsuit, took pictures of Jax as she sat unconscious outside Sidelines, according to the civil complaint.

Jax’s friends had at least a moral responsibility to take care of her, but did they have a legal one, too?

Mark Solheim, the attorney for Becker, told me this afternoon his client had no legal obligations under state law, and there’s a good reason for that. “Let’s say I have you and your wife over for dinner and at some point I say to you, ‘Bob, that’s your third glass of wine, I have a duty to stop you,’ where does that end? How long would that duty last? What if you fell down and hit your head the next day? How long am I liable?”

Solheim says Becker is devastated by her friend’s death. He says the lawsuit could take up to a year and a half. He says he’s never heard of a case quite like this, adding he has an “active practice in cases involving alcohol.”

Meanwhile, it’ll be open season on the memory of Amanda Jax, who while an underage student in Mankato, was twice convicted of drunken driving; once in 2005 in Hennepin County and in 2006 in McLeod County.

It’s hard to see what a “win” in the case accomplishes.

Criminal charges were not filed in the case.

  • I doubt Jax was drinking against her will. Absent evidence of force, her friends are not legally responsible for her death. Did they make a mistake? Yes. An all-too-common one. That doesn’t excuse it, but it doesn’t make it illegal either.

    They were ethically negligent, but, since there isn’t a legal duty at play here, there is also no legal negligence.

    Sounds like Ms. Jax may have had an unhealthy relationship with alcohol prior to her last night, which goes to further establish that she certainly was there of her own accord and was already prone to excessive drinking.

    The bar has a legal responsibility, not her friends.

    I’m with you, Bob, even if her parents “win” the suit against the five friends – which I highly doubt they will – what are they going to get?

    Cash? Reassurance that these five people won’t ever do something like that again?

    She was responsible for her own life; her family doesn’t seem to want to own up to that.

  • Bob Collins

    Like everyone else, I’m trying to track down the friends.

  • gilbert

    While I feel terrible for this young woman’s family, attacking her friends and the bartender who served her misses the point: their daughter had a drinking problem. And by refusing to look confront Amanda’s complicity in all of this, they send the message to others with similar problems that they are not responsible. No matter the outcome. This isn’t about “closure” because true closure is borne of forgiveness. This is about vengeance. These people are angry and it’s easier to turn that anger outward (i.e., towards others) than inward (on Amanda) where it belongs. If they want to avenge their daughter’s death and give meaning to her life, then pitch the lawyer to the curb and get out in front of high school kids and college kids and hammer home what can happen when you binge drink. Sometimes it’s bad things.

  • Mac Wilson

    The Jax family’s litigiousness has crossed over into the downright absurd. Look, I think it’s horrible that the girl died, but her family is not doing her memory any favors with lawsuits like these. I understand the family’s desire to make the world safer in the wake of Amanda’s death, and in determining whether legal boundaries were crossed that led to her death, but as gilbert says, actions like this are based more on vengeance than anything else.

    Remember when St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Josh Hancock crashed his car while intoxicated and died after hitting a tow truck? After his death, his father filed suit against the restaurant at which Hancock had been drinking, the tow truck driver, the tow truck company, and the driver of the car that the tow truck had stopped to help.

    There’s a human predilection towards wanting vengeance, of course, but can’t folks like Mr. Hancock and the Jax family take a step back and realize that no amount of litigation is going to bring their child back? Work towards a solution, work towards making the world safer for others, but don’t just sue for the sake of suing. All it does is wipe out any goodwill you may have accumulated and drag their daughter’s memory through the mud. I’m sorry for the Jax family’s loss, but enough is enough.

  • bonnie

    this is the most rediculous thing I have ever heard. This girl had an obvious drinking problem and it was probably never her fault even when the drinking led to her own death it seems her family is looking to blame somebody. Maybe someone should have talked to her the first or the second time she was drinking and driving about the consequences that could result. thank god she didn’t kill anyone else with her careless drinking and I feel terrible for her family’s loss but the only person responsible for her death was her. She drank too much and died as a result most people would call that a suicide not homicide!

  • Mac, it doesn’t take away from your comment to speak of, but the Hancock lawsuit was ultimately dismissed by the family:

  • Sean

    Trying to blame the 5 friends and the bar is pretty ridiculous in my opinion.

    They are alleging that she didn’t purchase any drinks.

    It was her 21st birthday! If you are buying drinks on your 21st birthday you have pretty worthless friends.

    In the end the responsibility of drinking falls on the person who chooses to drink the beverage. If someone buys you a knife and you stab yourself with it is it their fault?

  • Minn whaler

    well said Sean..

    Where does the line of personal responsibility come into play? I recently heard an man say that he was very confused and nagry because his “old lady” was always buying him drinks, which he chose to drink, and later when he was so drunk he became violent or a public nuisance, she would call the police. He said, but she bought me the drinks!!!!

    Did she force them down your throat with a gun to your head? No, but am I supposed to refuse a free drink?

    UHHH… Yeah…

  • Laurel Viera

    I would also like to bring up the point of how many people know what amount of alcohol, in what period of time is fatal? What are the signs of alcohol poisoning that is enough to lead to a death? Obviously, her friends didn’t as well as I bet most of the drinking and non-drinking non-medically trained public. Even her mother said in a recent article that she didn’t know this could happen and yet she is holding a bunch of young college kids responsible.

    I am a bartender and have a pretty good idea of what is too much but if someone is where I can not keep track and everyone is buying for that person (i don’t ask who is buying what for whom) and it is drank in a very short time, how am I suppose to control that? That is the kind of drinking that someone is ok one minute and the next minute, literally is falling down drunk. I can now cut that person off but how much have they had before the obvious behavior showed up. Sometimes, a person can go from acting and talking ok to deadly drunk in a very short time. It’s called binge drinking.