A Sedalia man has pleaded guilty to a charge in connection with a fatal car crash in Moniteau County in August 2016.
On Monday, Joshua Blankenship, 30, of Sedalia, pleaded guilty to one count of involuntary manslaughter. Morgan County Judge Matthew Hamner scheduled a sentencing hearing for Oct. 18. The case was moved on a change of venue.
According to Missouri Highway Patrol reports, Blankenship was driving westbound on U.S. 50, just east of the Business 50 West junction, when he crossed the center line and hit a car driven by Graden Lovelace, 20, of New Haven, head on.
After impact, both cars caught fire, and Lovelace was pronounced dead at the scene.
Blankenship was taken to University Hospital with serious injuries.
According to the patrol, Lovelace was wearing a seat belt at the time of the crash, while Blankenship was not.
Blankenship was named in a wrongful death lawsuit filed in February 2018 in Moniteau County by Lovelace's family. They asked the court to approve a settlement of $100,000, which Moniteau County Judge Kenneth Hayden approved in November 2018.
In the judgment entered by Hayden, Blankenship denies he was negligent. Both sides, desiring to avoid a judicial determination of the issue of liability, were willing to compromise and agreed to settle. The $100,000 will be split evenly between Lovelace's parents, Shonda Boyer and James Lovelace.
In another civil suit involving the crash, Judge Hayden approved a motion to dismiss punitive damages against Spectators and The Mission, two bars located on East High Street in Jefferson City.
Hayden also added Boyer as a party in the suit against the bars, which will continue on the request for actual damages of at least $25,000 from each business.
James Lovelace filed that suit in August 2018, claiming on the night of the crash, both establishments served alcohol to Blankenship who, the lawsuit claims, was already visibly intoxicated.
Lawyers representing The Mission filed paperwork citing the Dram Shop Act, which refers to the laws of each state that govern civil liability when damages, injuries or deaths are caused by visibly intoxicated individuals who were served alcoholic drinks in a bar, tavern or other establishment. While these laws vary slightly by state, they generally allow victims to sue the establishment, which has a duty to stop serving alcohol to the drunk patron.
The Mission lawyers said the act does not provide for the recovery of punitive damages, and therefore, it should be dismissed from the lawsuit.
Court records also show the lawyers cited Missouri law, which says furnishing of alcoholic beverages is specifically "not the proximate cause" of injuries resulting from the acts of intoxicated individuals.
The Mission lawyers also have asked there be a trial by a jury in this case, saying in court documents Graden Lovelace's injuries which led to his death were "the direct result of the negligence of Joshua Blankenship."
A new hearing date in this civil case has not been set.