Tracy Lawson lost another court battle over deaths tied to alcohol consumed at the former Party Ranch Bar that Lawson owned and operated. The father of U.S. Marine Donald Di Pietro won a default judgment against Lawson, d/b/a The Party Ranch d/b/a Partyranch, LLC for $5 million. Donald Di Pietro, the father who won the lawsuit yesterday, will probably never see a dime of that money though.
His deceased son was named Donald, too.
“Unless Lawson wins the lottery or inherits a lot of money, we knew going into this that there was no money there,” said Donald Di Pietro’s attorney Mary Golder of Webb, Stokes and Sparks in San Angelo.
Losing a child, even though Di Pietro was a grown man and a U.S. Marine sergeant who had served in Iraq, is a parent’s worse nightmare, Golder said.
Lawson stopped showing up in court about three hearings ago, Golder said. Lawson, in an exclusive interview with San Angelo LIVE! said that “there’s no sense showing up to these trials, ‘cause what’s the sense of it?”
Golder said that it was unfortunate that Lawson didn’t appear at the hearing yesterday to defend himself. “My client wanted to tell his story—and the story of his son. He wanted to be heard,” Golder said. The father phoned in to address the court at yesterday’s hearing.
Although Lawson still maintains he is not responsible for the deaths, Golder said that Lawson should have been a more responsible bar and business owner.
Lawson didn’t carry insurance on The Party Ranch, “and that’s why he can’t afford a lawyer,” Golder said, who maintains that having adequate insurance to protect not only yourself, but your patrons, is the first and foremost gesture of responsible business ownership. Golder also said that Lawson failed to supervise members of his staff who were caught over-serving patrons.
Earlier this year, the mother of 32-year-old Tersea Gartrell won a $5 million judgment against Lawson and the bar for her daughter’s death that was tied to the bar. In this incident, Teresa was killed after she left the Party Ranch with her boyfriend, 26-year-old Carl Bevers. They crashed into an innocent driver backing out of a driveway on the Houston Harte Expressway frontage road. Bevers measured a 0.199 blood-alcohol level in a test shortly after the crash. Golder and attorney partner Guy Choate represented the plaintiffs in that case too.
Golder said that in the initial stages of reviewing the two cases, she resolved to herself to get The Party Ranch shut down because of the irresponsible ownership.
Golder said that she is not against bars in general. “There are responsible bar owners in San Angelo,” she said. But The Party Ranch was bad. “If nothing was done about this, people would have blamed San Angelo.
“Di Pietro was a terrific guy who was killed for no reason,” she said.
The bar, located at 5233 Christoval Road, has been closed since the first quarter of 2014 after a string of fatal traffic crashes were tied to it. In this case, on March 9, 2013, Di Pietro was driving a motorcycle northbound on Old Christoval Road at the time that bar patron Malcolm Guy McBurnett was seated in his old Chevy pickup that wouldn’t start, and Allen Lee Schmidt had helped to push the truck into the middle of the roadway. It was approximately 7:30 p.m.
On the dimly lit road, Di Pietro didn’t see the white Chevy pickup in the middle of the roadway and was killed after he slammed into it while driving his 2012 Victory motorcycle.
Golder said this is the last of the Party Ranch civil trials where her firm has represented victims. She said that Di Pietro’s mother has a pending lawsuit yet to be heard, but she is not involved.