Featured, November 2011, USMNT

Davies Lawsuit A Sad, Irresponsible and Tragic Setback In A Storybook Comeback

Davies has abandoned the high road in his comeback from a tragic car accident that killed Ashley Roberta two years ago. That's another tragedy.

By Puck

With the MLS playoffs underway, our domestic league will be getting a lot of attention over the next few weeks. Will a squad with a designated player finally lift the MLS Cup? Can a disappointing season from the New York Red Bulls, made only palatable by a late, solid run of form, be turned around in time for a championship run? Will we have another long shot like the Colorado Rapids beat the odds? Will the Rapids repeat? Is the credibility of the MLS playoff structure called into question when a 4th overall FC Dallas squad is forced to play a winner take all play-in game? While each of these questions could be covered in great detail, a recent MLS story has slipped through the cracks on both blogs and major media outlets like the four letter network. One of the squads that will not be participating in the MLS Cup Playoffs is DC United, which of course means former USMNT darling Charlie Davies will be getting early rest. Apparently the extra time away from the pitch will help Davies focus on his multimillion dollar lawsuit.

First a recap. Roughly two years ago Davies was involved in a horrific car accident on the George Washington Parkway in DC. The man we loved to call Chuck D escaped with his life, but not without suffering multiple broken bones in his face, ribs, elbow and legs, a lacerated bladder, and severe bleeding in the brain. For two to three days, he clung to life before finally reaching “stable” status.

Tragically, another passenger in the vehicle, Ashley Roberta, a 22-year-old University of Maryland student, lost her life. Chuck D’s fight through rehabilitation was well documented during the lead up to the World Cup in South Africa, with many USMNT fans hoping he would be back to form before the tournament. Bob Bradley was even vilified by some for not bringing Davies along, even though after the World Cup it became clear Davies wasn’t even close to ready for competitive soccer, let alone the rigors of the world’s most prestigious sporting event. Davies was discouraged, but not beaten. He kept fighting. And even though he did not make the World Cup squad, the story seemed to come full circle as Davies returned to Washington D.C on loan with United.

Fast forward a year, and the story has taken another ridiculous turn, and in this writers opinion, one without question for the worst. Last week Charlie Davies filled at $20 million dollar lawsuit against the nightclub he was attending the night of the accident, The Shadow Room, and the organization hosting the party, Red Bull North America. The lawsuit has been brought on the grounds that the establishment and party organizers continued to serve alcohol to the driver of the vehicle in the accident, Maria Alejandra Espinoza, even though she was visibly intoxicated. Removing some of the legal jargon, the complaint essentially alleges negligence on the part of the host and the night club for continuing to serve alcohol to people who had clearly had enough that evening.

No one at the night club made Davies get in the car, pictured here after the accident in October 2009.

Now let’s add a disclaimer. I am not an attorney, and I have no idea how to predict exactly how things will work out, but to this writer, the lawsuit can be described in one word: sickening. Just what the hell is Davies thinking? Just a year ago he was talking about how great it was to be alive and how much closer to God he has become through this experience. A year later he is trying to pick up $20 million. I just cannot understand how and why this is happening now. From everything I have read about Davies the human being, this lawsuit seems completely out of character. Forget for a moment that this involves Charlie Davies. Let’s assume, for purposes of argument,

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that it involved any athlete beset by this sort of tragic circumstance. Sickening would still come to mind.

I have a huge problem when individual John and Jane Does, athletes and celebrities alike look to shift blame from themselves to something or someone else. Maybe I am naive, or maybe I just don’t understand what “emotional pain and suffering” really means, but this lawsuit just stinks of, “It was not my fault, the bar is responsible for my injuries.” This is whitewashing, plain and simple, of an individual’s poor choices and the legal system, while controversial on both the criminal and civil end, is better than an instrument utilized when one simply wants to actively scapegoat others.

This lawsuit has really got me infuriated because of the rhetoric used by Davies’ attorney, Jon Pels, in attacking the bar owner and event planners. Here’s the quote—you all are bright enough to decide for yourselves: “This is yet another example of how drinking and driving can kill and injure. Bars must accept responsibility when overseeing an event such as this.” You know what? Maybe. It is true that states have saloon statutes that make bartenders and club owners culpable for overserving certain patrons. But typically they don’t extend the arm of their culpable negligence to the choices one makes when one leaves the bar or club. That’s precisely what Davies and Pels are trying to do here.

Using bars as scapegoats in accidents such as these is nothing more than a lazy misplacement of anger and regret. It is the abdication of personal accountability and responsibility—and as noted above—that doesn’t resonate well when you consider the attitude of Davies in the past year. Wasn’t the entire comeback about his own fortune to be alive—his desire to make amends for his own choices—and his decision to make the most of every second—seconds Ashley Roberta never got? It was a second chance. And that’s the stuff of American dreams. This lawsuit—it’s the stuff of cowards and crooks.

As a frequent visitor to a bar and pubs alike, never have I felt the bar was responsible for my well being on the trip home. It all comes down to personal responsibility. You go to a bar to drink alcohol and meet people. The amount you drink is completely up to you, as well as whom you decide to jump in a car with. No matter what Pels wants to say, Davies made the decisions to get in the car with Espinoza and Roberta.

Pels plans to argue that Davies did not know the two ladies had been drinking when they met in the lobby of the club and he agreed to let them drive him home when leaving the party. Let’s just suppose that’s true—again, for arguments sake, or, as an attorney would say- in the light most favorable to Charlie Davies. One question becomes glaringly obvious. Charlie—why the hell did you get in the car? That was the decision that ruined your chances of playing in the World Cup, cost you two years of your prime, a starting spot on a solid French club and nearly your life. It wasn’t the choices Espinoza made when she decided to drive. It wasn’t even the choice Roberta made when she fatefully agreed to ride with Espinoza. The bartender didn’t make that choice. Red Bull North America didn’t either.

As a striker, the choices one makes given one's options dictate outcomes. It's no different in life. Davies made a poor one, and to this point, hadn't run away from that fact.

As an up and coming national star, getting in the car with two women you just met, while understandably tempting for a young, attractive man, was the wrong decision. It was the wrong decision and it wasn’t as if Davies didn’t have options. As a striker, recognition of options is part of great attacking football. Pass here, pass there, shoot here. Options create chances and the choices you make about those options dictate outcomes. It is, in fact, no different in life.

There is this amazing invention in every major city called cabs. You call one up and they take you wherever the hell you want to go for a set rate based on the distance they went. Davies had that option. In fact, forget about calling a cab, as a potential breakout star for the Red, White and Blue, a single phone call to anyone with the USMNT changes everything. Maybe they send a car; hell– maybe a trainer gets out of bed and picks your ass up– anything but getting in a car with two women you just met.

Charlie, you were at a bar drinking. Use your head. It is probably safe to assume these ladies were doing the same, not sitting in the corner sipping Shirley Temples and playing Candy Land. I just cannot understand how $20 million dollars is going to make Chuck D feel any better about missing the World Cup, and possibly derailing his entire international soccer career. Sure the money might help out for a while, but if that 2014 roster is announced without his name on it, what exactly will the $20million do then? My guess is nothing. And then he’ll be back at square one, with only his own personal choices to blame.

Puck is a Senior Writer for The Yanks Are Coming. He can be reached at puck@yanksarecoming.com and you can and should follow his Tweets on pop culture, soccer, and other things of human interest on Twitter at @PuckLovesPBR.


  • Jared

    I was disappointed to see him filing a lawsuit over this incident.  I was even more disappointed when I read the details about him claiming that he had no idea if the driver was drinking.  If I’m getting in a car with someone I make sure I know if and how much they’ve been drinking. 

    Bars do have responsibility not to overserve people but I find that to be more of an issue when someone dies from alcohol poisoning.  Once you get in the car (unless it’s a valet issue) then that to me is on you.  They didn’t put you in the car. 

  • Rvownsu

    so the bar knew the ladies were drunk, but Chuck D didn’t know they were drunk when they got into the car? fishy..

  • Doug

    I would like to think that Charlie is doing this on behalf of the victims family. Otherwise I would have a hard time watching him play wo/ second guessing him. Still I will withhold judgment until either CD9 makes a statement or something related happens.

  • Shway27

    As much as I liked him before, I absolutely have no respect or admiration for Charlie Diveies now. My first problem, as stated, if the bar should have observed that she was visibly intoxicated how could he have not seen it? Second and one not mention, was that he was out past the USMNT curfew! He was breaking the rules of the team so HE had damaged his relationship with them.

    As for his so called “comeback year” Charlie Diveies played no where near his old level. He played scared. Looking for pks more than beautiful soccer. Cheating and deception rather than skill, finesse, control, all the things that make soccer so amazing to watch. It was almost like watching some of those overpaid euro players who fall down at the slightest touch, at the slightest hint that someone had even dared breath in their general direction.

    This is such a pathetic move and I hope the judge sees right through it. I don’t care if the bar or club or whatever it was gets fined but I think Charlie should get nothing and have to pay the court costs for this sad waste of time.

  • Puck, I just want to point out to you and everyone commenting that the $20 million figure is pure speculation and shock-tactics from CD9’s lawyer. In reality, you can’t predict a jury award for emotional pain and suffering with any degree of accuracy, and $20 million would be steep even in a wrongful death suit with incontrovertible evidence of gross negligence.

    Davies has a right to recovery via the legal system just like anyone else. Having worked in the service industry, I can tell you right now that as awful and pointless as it may seem to hold the establishment liable for something like this, it goes on every day. There’s a reason why these places have security, wait, and and bar staff that are required to be TIPS and STOP certified before working. One of the bars I used to work at was sued for something similar to this (much less serious accident), and people lost jobs over it even though the guy “made his own decisions.” I agree that a person should be responsible for the decisions they make, including buying more drinks and getting behind the wheel, but the reality is that they don’t.

    I sincerely doubt this is a way for Charlie to shift blame. This is more a way for Charlie to recoup damages for the accident. The only thing that surprises me right now is that it took this long for him to file a suit. Now, he could sue Espinoza, but not only would she not offer much money for recovery, but THAT would be a d*ck move. Much more than this.

    • The one thing that is certainly correct about the above, which was well-stated– is that Davies is doing something people frequently do. We’ll see what happens.

      As for the legal argument– yes– bartenders, party hosts and “saloon keepers” are required to be certified in these types of situations. That said– there’s a reason the substantive number of these types of claims are losers. Above all, personal responsibility tends to dictate outcomes in this type of suit. The fact that Davies had several options when he left that party that night might come back to haunt him. Again- much depends on the specific saloon statute for club liability in Virginia or Maryland. If it’s a liberal one– he’lll have a chance. If not– then he’s wasting money- because proving gross negligence is much tougher than culpable negligence– and you could argue Davies will even have trouble proving the latter.

      • Well I don’t think he needs to prove gross negligence, just negligence.

        Either way, I agree with you, at the end of the day it was his decision and he needs to take responsibility. Like I already said, I worked in the industry, and the idea that the same idiots I threw out for being too drunk to serve could turn around and sue if I hadn’t and they got into car accidents out of their own stupidity pissed me off. I just don’t think that precludes him from seeking recovery, and bringing this type of suit definitely doesn’t make him a villain.

    • PUCK

      The $20 million dollar figure is indeed ridiculous, but I was just reporting what was mentioned by Chuck’s representation.  My feeling regarding this situation comes down to the idea that he needs to “recoup damages”  What damages exactly?  I could be wrong, but it does not appear to be medical expenses. I have to believe that either or both the USMNT and Sochaux had some type of insurance policy for all of their players.

      As previously stated, I am not really buying the emotional pain and suffering argument. Again, I am no attorney, just a dedicated fan blindsided by how this whole thing has evolved. It will be interesting to see how it all turns out.

      • What I meant was that no one, not even Chuck’s camp, can be certain of the damages total. To make a claim you just have to put in an amount, any amount – it has almost no bearing on what the jury will actually award in many cases, which is something few will really be able to predict. A good lawyer will just name a large number for shock value and to make sure that, if its a sympathetic jury, they don’t feel like they have a restrictive ceiling on what to award.

        And you aren’t buying emotional pain and suffering? I mean all personal opinions aside, you don’t think that kid went through hell for months after that accident? He morphed into one of US Soccer’s greatest and most inspirational stories of overcoming adversity, so maybe we think he’s made of iron or something. He’s not, though. He’s human, he was definitely scared, he was definitely injured, definitely traumatized and I’m sure he had plenty of the psychological issues that come with such a catastrophic event in one’s life. Those can all be compensated under US tort law.

        And let’s all not kid ourselves here. Unless something goes totally out of whack, this is going to either be dismissed or settled out of court. It isn’t that big a deal.

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