The Washington Post

D.C. United’s Charlie Davies files $20 million lawsuit against nightclub and party host Red Bull

D.C. United striker Charlie Davies has filed a $20 million lawsuit against the owner of a nightclub and the company that hosted a party at which alcohol was served to the driver responsible for a car accident that severely injured the soccer player and killed another passenger.

The suit, filed in D.C. Superior Court last week, names Das Enterprises, which operates Shadow Room, and Red Bull North America, the host of the private event on Oct. 12, 2009, at the K Street establishment.

The companies are accused of continuing to serve alcohol to Maria Alejandra Espinoza, even though, according to the suit, she “became visibly intoxicated.”

An initial conference is scheduled for Jan. 13.

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Espinoza, from Clarksville, Md., was sentenced in March to two years in prison after pleading guilty to charges of involuntary manslaughter and maiming while driving intoxicated.

Ashley Roberta, of Phoenix, Md., was killed in the accident. Davies’s injuries included a ruptured bladder, bleeding in the brain, and facial, rib, leg and elbow fractures. He returned to pro soccer last year and joined United before the 2011 season.

The suit claims some of Davies’s injuries caused permanent disfigurement in the form of multiple scars and he will continue to face substantial medical expenses. It also says Davies “suffered, and will continue to suffer, great pain of body and mind.”

In addition, the suit states, Davies was unable to continue playing for the U.S. national team, ending his hopes of competing at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. Davies was a regular on the squad before the accident and hasn’t received a call-up since.

Although he resumed his pro career, Davies wasn’t able to continue on the path that might’ve led to a major contract with a European club. He was playing for French club Sochaux before the accident occurred.

United acquired him on a one-year loan in January and, according to the MLS players’ union, is earning about $250,000 this season. He is second on the team in goals with 11 but has struggled to regain the playing form that propelled his career before the accident.

In a twist, Red Bull, the Austrian-based company that produces energy drinks of the same name, happens to own a team in MLS: the New York Red Bulls. United and New York are battling for the final playoff spot this week.

The lawsuit claims Red Bull hosted the event at Shadow Room and ”had a duty to be aware of the provisions” in the District’s Alcoholic Beverage Control Act that prohibits the “sale or delivery of alcoholic beverages to ... an intoxicated person or any person who appears to be intoxicated.”

Davies broke U.S. team curfew to attend the event, two nights before the Americans’ World Cup qualifying match against Costa Rica at RFK Stadium.

“There is nothing that can restore the lost opportunity Charlie Davies had of representing the United States in the World Cup,” said Jon Pels, Davies’s Bethesda-based attorney. “It is a testament to his strength and athleticism that he is playing soccer again.

“This is yet another example of how drinking and driving can kill and injure. Bars must accept responsibility when overseeing an event such as this.”

Swaptak Das, president and chief executive of Das Enterprises, and a Red Bull North America spokesman in California didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.

Steven Goff is The Post’s soccer writer. His beats include D.C. United, MLS and the international game, as well as local college basketball.


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