Fort Worth Legion post sued in women's deaths

Posted Monday, Jul. 07, 2008  comments  Print Reprints
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The birthday party invitation that Alisia Padilla received proclaimed: “Drink Til We Don’t Remember Anything We Do Tonight.”

In the end, it was a night that Padilla — and the families of two young women who were killed in a car wreck — will never forget.

Padilla, 38, is accused of being involved in a fatal drunken-driving accident about a block from the American Legion post where she attended the party. Already fleeing a hit-and-run, authorities say, Padilla smashed into the side of another car, killing the two women.

Padilla, who had a previous conviction on a drug charge, was indicted in June on charges of intoxication manslaughter in the two deaths. She was also indicted on a charge of intoxication assault in the injuries to the 20-month-old son of one of the victims. Her blood-alcohol level was 0.24, or three times the legal limit, authorities say.

Now Amy Hooten, the mother of 18-year-old victim Danielle Hooten, is suing South Fort Worth American Legion Post No. 569, accusing its bartenders of overserving Padilla.

“The accident happened less than a mile from the American Legion,” said Kevin Carey, the Fort Worth attorney representing the mother. “They allowed her to leave drunker than Cooter Brown, and she collided with other vehicles and T-boned my client’s vehicle.

“Basically, you’ve got a situation where the American Legion [was] the sole supplier of alcohol to these people and that alcohol is their No. 1 source of revenue. And they push it,” Carey said.

Sam Balandran, the post’s commander, declined to comment.

Paul Bezney, the Dallas attorney representing the post, said his clients generally deny the lawsuit’s allegation but otherwise declined to talk about specifics of the case.

“Obviously, they feel horrible that this accident occurred and they are conducting a thorough investigation at this time concerning all of the allegations,” Bezney said.

‘Dangerous to the public’

The fatal accident occurred early March 1 in the 4400 block of the northbound service road of Interstate 35, police records show.

A party was being held at the post for two women celebrating their birthdays. Padilla went with a male companion, Luis Reyes. The invitation said Padilla and everyone else should “Grab their dancing shoes. Book a sitter if you need one. ... Let’s do this party right,” according to court documents.

Padilla and Reyes were allegedly served by two bartenders who the lawsuit says should have known that they were “over-served, intoxicated and dangerous to the public” if they were allowed to leave in a vehicle.

Moments after the party ended at midnight, Padilla got behind the wheel of Reyes’ GMC truck. Padilla first clipped a Dodge Neon while trying to pass it, a police report shows.

Padilla continued north, ran a red light and struck the Cadillac that Danielle Hooten was riding in with her roommate, Cynthia Revilla, 24, and Hooten’s 20-month-old son, Avery, authorities say. Hooten had gone to Town East Mall in Mesquite to pick up Revilla from her job as a security guard, Carey said.

“Danielle had been with her family all evening. She was doing her friend a favor by picking her up from work,” Carey said.

The crash spun Revilla’s Cadillac around and pushed it into a Ford Explorer. Hooten and Revilla were pronounced dead at the scene. Avery Hooten, still strapped in the car seat, was ejected from the car. He was taken to a hospital. He now lives with Amy Hooten, his grandmother.

The family of Cynthia Revilla could not be reached for comment.

‘Gone to heaven’

Carey said he decided to allow Padilla’s criminal case to make its way through the justice system before naming her in a lawsuit.

Amy Hooten is suing not only for her daughter’s medical bills, funeral and burial expenses but also for money to help care for her grandson.

Avery Hooten has been told that his mother died in the accident, but he doesn’t fully understand that she’s never coming home, Carey said.

“There are moments where the child understands and those heartbreaking moments when he doesn’t understand and calls out for his mother looking for comfort,” the attorney said. His grandmother has to remind him that “his mother has gone to heaven.”

MAX B. BAKER, 817-390-7714

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