Shortly after an intoxicated Nicholas Immesberger crashed his car and died, an attorney for Immesberger’s family alleges someone at Tiger Woods’ restaurant in Jupiter, Florida, deleted videotape evidence of Immesberger drinking at the restaurant’s bar for nearly three hours.
“We have through our investigation uncovered evidence to show that the bar knew what happened, they knew about the crash that night and shortly thereafter that video evidence was destroyed and deleted off of the servers they had there at The Woods," attorney Spencer Kuvin said at a Tuesday news conference. “We absolutely believe that the videotape was destroyed as a direct result of his death and knowledge that he was there that night and they wanted to get rid of that evidence.”
The family of Immesberger, an employee at Woods’ restaurant, The Woods, has filed suit against Woods and his girlfriend Erica Herman, alleging that the restaurant overserved Immesberger immediately prior to his death behind the wheel of his car in December 2018.
Immesberger, a former bartender at the restaurant, died in a car accident that occurred after he had been drinking at The Woods on the afternoon of Dec. 10. His blood alcohol level at the time of the crash was 0.28, more than three times Florida’s legal limit.
Immesberger’s parents have charged in their lawsuit that Woods and Herman, general manager of the restaurant, “not only were aware of [Immesberger’s] alcoholism, but that the employees, staff, and owners of the restaurant knowingly fueled his addiction by regularly over-serving him during and after his work shifts.”
“He referred to The Woods as his family and as his friends,” Immesberger’s mother Mary Belowsky said. “And when he needed them, they kinda just looked the other way.”
At the news conference, Kuvin laid out the case against Woods, Herman, and The Woods. Like many states, Florida has a so-called “dram shop” law which renders an establishment liable for injury and damages if it “knowingly serves a person habitually addicted to the use of any or all alcoholic beverages.”
Immesberger, according to the family, was drinking at The Woods from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Dec. 10. Neither Woods nor Herman was present at the time, and staff at the restaurant allegedly "sent [Immesberger] out to his car" to drive home while intoxicated, according to the lawsuit.
Immesberger’s history of drinking
Kuvin portrayed Immesberger as a habitual drinker in need of help. According to Kuvin, Immesberger’s father, Scott Duchene, had taken him to a program for help “once.” Moreover, Kuvin continued, employees at The Woods were well aware of Immesberger’s problem, but instead of helping him, enabled him. On multiple occasions, according to Kuvin, The Woods employees allowed Immesberger to drink to the point of intoxication. Numerous times his sister, father or girlfriend arrived to take him home. And just nights before the crash, Kuvin alleges, Woods and Herman were at the bar when Immesberger’s sister arrived to take him home because “he could barely walk.”
This, Kuvin contended, was the culture created by Woods and Herman.
“She [Herman] set the tone for the culture in that bar,” Kuvin said. “That culture was drinking and drinking to excess.”
Allegations of destroyed evidence
A key element of the family’s case is the question of whether evidence of The Woods’ employees’ actions was destroyed after Immesberger’s fatal accident.
"One of the most significant issues we have here is the destruction of evidence," Kuvin said at the news conference. "Obviously it shows that somebody knew something had gone wrong and they wanted to get rid of that evidence. 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.”
At almost the same time as Immesberger’s attorney held his news conference, Woods, the defending Masters champion, faced the media in New York prior to this week’s PGA Championship. Asked how he felt about the lawsuit, Woods responded, “Well, we're all very sad that Nick passed away. It was a terrible night, a terrible ending, and just — we feel bad for him and his entire family. It's very sad.”
In terms of damages, Kuvin said that "at the end of the day, we're going to let a jury determine what is fair and reasonable for the life of this young man and what these two parents have lost."