Parents of teen sue restaurant, employee over fatal car wreck

by Chad Abraham, Aspen Daily News Staff Writer

The parents of the 16-year-old Carbondale girl killed in a Glenwood Canyon car accident in April are suing a Glenwood Springs restaurant and one of its employees, alleging she served alcohol to the driver, 18, who also died.

The wrongful-death lawsuit by Pedro Nevarez Sr. and Elda Nevarez, the parents of Jennifer Nevarez, was filed Thursday in Garfield County District Court. It names as defendants Jag’s Bayou, LTD, the operator of the Bayou Cajun Restaurant, and Denisse Arreola.

Nevarez, Brianda Zavala, 18, of Glenwood Springs, and Albino Ortiz-Monge, 24, of Gypsum, all died when the Audi that Zavala was driving collided head on with a tractor trailer on April 14.

According to the Colorado State Patrol, Zavala had a blood-alcohol content of 0.241, three times the legal limit to drive.

The Audi was heading east in a westbound lane at about 5:30 a.m. when it hit the semitrailer about 13 miles east of Glenwood Springs. The driver of the King Soopers semi-truck, who was traveling west in the westbound lane, wasn’t hurt. The roadway was under construction at the time, with two-way traffic in what was normally the westbound lanes.

Zavala was wearing a seat belt, but Nevarez and Ortiz-Monge, who were in the back seat, were not, according to the state patrol.

Nevarez was a sophomore at Roaring Fork High School, according to a Post Independent article.

The lawsuit says Arreola served Zavala alcohol, “knowingly and unlawfully,” on April 13 when she was at the Bayou.

Arreola pleaded no contest in Garfield County Court to providing alcohol to a minor on Sept. 12. Court records show she was fined $801.50.

The Colorado Department of Revenue’s liquor enforcement unit has issued an order to show cause, which gives the Bayou an opportunity to explain to the state why it should not take action against the business’ liquor license, said spokeswoman Daria Serna.

“The next steps would be a pre-conference hearing and then a show-of-cause hearing,” she said in an email.

Robin Unsworth, Glenwood city clerk, said she will wait until the state’s action against the Bayou is complete before she makes a recommendation to the city’s hearing officer on the business’ liquor license.

Aspen attorney Jeff Wertz is representing Nevarez Sr. and Elda Nevarez.

It was foreseeable to a licensed establishment and “its agents and employees that the serving of [alcoholic beverages] to a person under 21 would result in a drunk-driving incident,” he wrote.

A message left at the restaurant for Bayou owner Steven Beham and Arreola was not returned Thursday.

The defendants’ violation of the state statute that prohibits providing alcohol to minors constitutes negligence, the lawsuit says.

Nevarez’s parents are seeking more than $100,000 in damages, attorney fees and penalties. They also have requested a jury trial.