Attorneys for the parents of a bartender at Tiger Woods' Jupiter restaurant who died in a December crash are alleging the managers of The Woods Jupiter knew their son was drinking excessively despite his struggles with alcoholism and even "destroyed" video evidence that would show it.
The family of Nicholas Immesberger has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Woods and his girlfriend, Erica Herman, who manages the restaurant at Harbourside Place in Jupiter. Immesberger died Dec. 10 when his 1999 Chevy Corvette crashed in southern Martin County.
At a news conference Tuesday at the law offices of attorney Craig Goldenfarb, lawyers for Immesberger's parents alleged The Woods Jupiter "destroyed" surveillance-camera video footage that showed their son drinking at the bar for three hours. Immesberger, 24, drank to the point of severe intoxication before being allowed to drive home, the lawsuit alleged.
"We absolutely believe that the video tape was destroyed as a direct result of his death," said Spencer T. Kuvin, the firm's litigation director.
Attorneys for Immesberger's parents, Katherine Belowsky and Scott Duchene, said the destruction of evidence allegations will be "addressed immediately," and they are asking the court to have restaurant's surveillance cameras examined by a forensic specialist.
Speaking Tuesday morning at the PGA Championship golf tournament on Long Island, Woods did not specifically address the lawsuit but said everyone involved with The Woods Jupiter was "very sad Nick passed away. It was a terrible night, terrible ending. We feel bad for him and his entire family. It's very sad."
A person who answered the telephone at The Woods Jupiter said Tuesday afternoon that the restaurant had no comment. Attempts to reach a spokesman for Woods' through his California-based foundation and its spokesman, Glenn Greenspan, were not successful.
Attorneys for the family alleged Tuesday that the night of the crash wasn't the first time Immesberger had allegedly had too much to drink at Woods' restaurant, off U.S. 1 just north of Indiantown Road.
Just days before his death, attorneys allege Immesberger had been sitting at the bar with Woods and Herman. While he was leaving the bar that night, attorneys say he was severely intoxicated, and stumbled into a tray of glasses and had to be driven home by his sister.
About a month before his death, the attorneys stated Immesberger was allegedly "overserved" and crashed his vehicle. Attorneys said a police report was not filed, but employees at The Woods were aware of the incident.
Belowsky and Duchene's attorneys said Immesberger had been picked up from the bar "numerous" times after drinking too much. His father had taken him to treatment programs for his alcoholism.
The bartenders at The Woods, Kuvin alleged, knew Immesberger was trying to get better. Immesberger's girlfriend, who also worked at the bar, reportedly called the bar and told them to stop serving him. But attorneys say that employees continued to provide Immesberger with alcohol after his shifts.
"Tiger, Erica and The Woods staff all knew that Nick had a disease," Goldenfarb said. "Despite this knowledge, they served him drinks for three hours, fueling his addiction."
Although neither Woods nor Herman were at the bar on the night of Immesberger's death, Goldenfarb said they should be held responsible under Florida law. Immesberger's mother hopes her son's death will cause other bars and restaurants to take notice when customers are heavily intoxicated.
"Because I know this isn't the only bar that overserves." Belowsky said. "And it's a tragedy."
Immesberger crashed at about 6 p.m. Dec. 10 on Federal Highway near Southwest Colonial Drive in Port Salerno. According to the lawsuit, his blood-alcohol level was about .256, or three times the legal threshold to be considered impaired.
A Florida Highway Patrol report said Immesberger was traveling "at (a) high rate of speed" before the crash, veering from an inside lane and crossing three traffic lanes before his vehicle went airborne and overturned along the side of Federal.
Immesberger went to high school and played football at Berean Christian School in suburban West Palm Beach and later attended Bridgewater College in Virginia. His mother said he dreamed of becoming a firefighter and planned to attend EMT school.
"He referred to The Woods as his family. As his friends," Belowsky said. "And when he needed them, they just looked the other way."
Staff writer Tom D'Angelo contributed to this story.