Owners of South Side's Hofbrauhaus settle in girl's death for $15.6 million

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The family of a 7-year-old girl who was killed by a drunken driver in 2010 after he left the Hofbrauhaus restaurant on the South Side on Tuesday reached a $15.6 million settlement with the company.

In addition to the financial payout, the German-style facility has agreed to a number of changes in its protocol to try to reduce customer intoxication and drunken driving.

Lexa Cleland, who was asleep in the back seat as her mother drove to pick up her husband, Mark, from work the night of Dec. 4, 2010, was killed instantly when her mother's Toyota Camry was struck by a Ford Mustang driven by Travis Isiminger on East Carson Street on the South Side.

Her mother, Nicole Cleland, who was pregnant at the time, suffered severe injuries, including a broken pelvis, and had a miscarriage.

Isiminger pleaded guilty to homicide by vehicle while driving under the influence and was sentenced to six to 12 years in prison.

According to the settlement agreement filed with the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas, Isiminger consumed at least six liters of beer and several shots of liquor over a period of about 41/2 hours.

Just before 10 p.m., the paperwork said, Isiminger vomited on a table and was escorted out of the bar by security. He was allowed to leave, walked to his car and crashed a short time later.

His blood-alcohol level an hour after the crash was 0.219, more than twice the legal limit. His vehicle was estimated to be traveling 67 mph at impact. The speed limit was 25.

Under the settlement agreement, the Hofbrauhaus has agreed to a number of changes in how it operates.

It will now require its staff, including managers, servers, bartenders and security, to be certified in Responsible Alcohol Management training through an approved Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board trainer.

Responsibility for identifying intoxicated guests will be included in job descriptions for security personnel. In addition, the restaurant will establish guidelines for responsible alcohol service and disseminate those to employees.

It will use a new point-of-sales system to provide individual checks so they know how much alcohol each customer is getting. It also will provide water to guests to slow alcohol consumption; will establish a designated driver program providing complimentary non-alcohol beverages and will provide free light food for guests who appear to be intoxicated.

The settlement breakdown pays $8.9 million to Nicole Cleland; $500,000 to Mark Cleland; $2.1 million to the estate of Lexa Cleland; and just over $4 million to their attorneys, Goodrich & Associates, for costs and fees.

The lawsuit was filed against Hofbrauhaus and Isiminger, whose insurance will be responsible for paying $100,000 of the settlement.

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Paula Reed Ward: pward@post-gazette.com.


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