CROWN POINT | Remembering their son and brother Phillip Briner with tears and smiles, members of a Crown Point family said Tuesday that drinking and driving is a choice with lasting consequences.
Briner, 21, was killed in November when his pickup truck was hit by a drunken driver on the Dan Ryan Expressway near 95th Street, police said. Tyrone Stokes, of Chicago, was charged in Cook County court with felony aggravated driving under the influence and is currently out on bond.
The Briner family on Tuesday announced a wrongful death lawsuit against Stokes; Traci Nesbit, the owner of the truck Stokes was driving; and Benjamin and Margaret McKaskill, the owners of Margaret Filling Station, the Chicago bar where Stokes allegedly drank before getting in the vehicle. The lawsuit was filed by attorney Patrick A. Salvi, of the Chicago law firm of Salvi, Schostok & Pritchard P.C.
The Illinois Dram Shop Act allows bar owners to be sued if a person who becomes intoxicated and continues to be served alcohol causes harm, Salvi said. Nesbit is named because under Illinois law “she negligently entrusted her car to someone who did harm,” he said.
The Briner family is seeking more than $50,000, the minimum limit allowed by Illinois law, from Stokes and Nesbit for medical and burial expenses, the loss of love and attention of Phillip Briner and mental grievance the family has suffered.
“This was a senseless death," said Andrew Briner, Phillip’s father. "It was a choice Mr. Stokes made to get into that truck. It affects more than the person. It affects the families. If we can stop one person from drinking and driving,” he said, his voice trailing off.
“There is not a day we don’t miss him,” Andrew Briner said. “I work in Chicago and I drive right by where he was killed every day I go to work."
Phillip Briner — described by his mother, Mona Briner, as "our rock" — died of massive head trauma Nov. 10 after Stokes crashed into his pickup truck about 1:30 a.m. as Briner was driving home to Crown Point from his job at The Peninsula Hotel in Chicago, according to Illinois State Police reports.
Stokes crossed five lanes of traffic on the Dan Ryan and slammed into Phillip Briner’s vehicle, police said. The crash caused both vehicles to strike the left concrete barrier wall, and Phillip Briner’s head struck the driver’s side window.
He then fell into the front seat unconscious, Andrew Briner said. When the two vehicles swerved right, back across all five lanes of traffic, Phillip Briner’s truck struck the right concrete barrier and his body hit the windshield.
He didn’t have a heartbeat when paramedics arrived. He was taken to Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn, where doctors pronounced him dead at 2:30 a.m.
Stokes failed field sobriety tests and had a blood alcohol content of 0.106, police said. His next pretrial hearing in Cook County Criminal Court is set for 9:30 a.m. Aug. 27.