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Tiger Woods named in lawsuit after restaurant employee’s fatal December car crash

A lawsuit filed May 14 against Tiger Woods claims the golfer contributed to the death of an employee who was killed in a drunk-driving crash in December. (Video: Reuters)

A lawsuit filed Monday against Tiger Woods claims the golfer contributed to the death of an employee of his restaurant who was in a one-car crash in December.

The employee, Nicholas Immesberger, had a blood alcohol level that was more than three times the legal limit, according to the lawsuit. The suit, filed in Florida, claims Immesberger was overserved at the restaurant before getting into his car to drive home.

In addition to Woods and his restaurant, The Woods Jupiter, the lawsuit also named the golfer’s girlfriend, Erica Herman, who was the general manager of the establishment in Jupiter, Fla.

They “knew [Immesberger] was suffering from the disease of alcoholism,” the lawsuit states, and not only “ignored” that but “fueled it” by letting him drink at the restaurant’s bar “to the point of severe intoxication.”

Immesberger, who was 24 when he died Dec. 10, was a bartender at The Woods. According to the lawsuit, filed in a Palm Beach County court on behalf of his parents, he ended his shift at approximately 3 p.m. that day and stayed at the restaurant, “sitting at the bar area,” until he headed home.

The Florida Highway Patrol said at the time that Immesberger’s accident occurred at approximately 6 p.m. along a stretch of U.S. 1 almost 16 miles north of The Woods. He was said to have lost control of his 1999 Chevrolet Corvette and veered right across three lanes of the highway, running into a grass area before going airborne. He was not wearing a seat belt.

At a news conference Tuesday in West Palm Beach, Fla., one of the lawyers who filed the suit said that video footage from The Woods, which would have shown Immesberger drinking there for three hours, had been “destroyed.”

“Obviously it shows that somebody knew something had gone wrong and they wanted to get rid of that evidence,” said the lawyer, Spencer Kuvin (via ESPN). “We have evidence to show that that videotape, showing Nick at the bar that night after he got off at 3 p.m., drinking for three hours at the bar, was destroyed shortly after the crash had occurred.”

Woods is in Farmingdale, N.Y., this week to compete in the PGA Championship, which starts Thursday at Bethpage Black. He was asked about the lawsuit during a news conference Tuesday.

“We’re all very sad that Nick passed away,” Woods said. “It was a terrible night, a terrible ending, and just — we feel bad for him and his entire family. It’s very sad.”

At the PGA Championship, Woods will be seeking a second straight major title following his win last month at the Masters, his first major victory since 2008. As Woods has staged a career comeback that began last year and culminated in his triumph last month at the Masters, Herman has become a familiar figure to golf fans who have seen Woods greet her with affection after completing rounds.

The lawsuit states Woods and Herman were drinking with Immesberger at the bar of The Woods “only a few nights before the fatal crash.” Employees and management of the restaurant were described as being aware that Immesberger had attended Alcoholics Anonymous meetings and as having continued to serve him drinks even though they knew he had “no other way home” apart from driving there.

Per the lawsuit, Herman “personally knew” Immesberger and “specifically recruited” him to work at The Woods, and she was “well aware” of his “habitual use of alcohol.” The legal action is seeking damages in excess of $15,000, citing emotional and financial harm to his parents, Katherine Belowsky and Scott Duchene.

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