Lawsuit settled over death of Carmel man

(Original publication: February 13, 2003)

Carol Auer knew a $10 million lawsuit she filed against a Kent pub, where her 20-year-old son was served drinks the night he died in a 1999 car wreck, wasn't going to make her rich.

"The bar had no insurance. There was no money to go after," she said. "The only thing I could insist upon was the same as with any tragedy — that we don't see it happen again. If I could save one parent from going through what I experienced when my son died, then maybe it would be worthwhile."

Her attorney, David E. Worby of White Plains, said the suit she filed against Mitch's Pub after the October 1999 death of her son, Nicholas Kraus, did achieve one thing — it shut down the bar.

In a settlement reached last month, the owner of Mitch's Pub, John K. Hanrahan, agreed to surrender his on-premises liquor license, which allowed patrons to consume alcohol on site, Worby said. Hanrahan also agreed to never again apply for an on-premises license and never again take part in a bar business in Putnam County, Worby said. He can, however, operate a liquor store or a store that sells beer. Auer said she got no money from the settlement.

"Making sure Mitch's Pub is out of business and that the owner has been penalized is one way of sending a message to those other establishments that either do not check for identification or that continue to serve patrons who are obviously intoxicated," Worby said.

It is illegal in New York state to sell or serve alcohol to anyone under age 21 and to continue to serve anyone who is intoxicated.

Hanrahan's attorney, Pat Bonanno of Southeast, had a different take on the settlement, and said his client was "going to make a decision to surrender his (liquor) license as a business decision independent of this tragedy."

"This is not an incident anyone took any pleasure being involved in," Bonanno said yesterday. "My client is the father of children, too, and he understands Mrs. Auer's pain."

Kraus died after his vehicle struck a tree on Route 301 near Belden Road in Carmel. He had been drinking with friends for hours at Mitch's Pub before crashing his car. He was never asked for identification and was served despite being underage and intoxicated, the lawsuit said.

The building that housed Mitch's on Towners Road in the Lake Carmel section of Kent is now home to a delicatessen with tables for dining. The store has a grocery beer permit, but alcohol consumption is prohibited on site. Hanrahan said he is not affiliated with the Hill & Dale Deli, and referred questions about the lawsuit to Bonanno.

Auer said that although it's been more than three years since her son died, she thinks of him every day.

"The sorrow is so overwhelming. Nothing's going to bring my son back or bring back the children of everyone who lost a child in Putnam County under these circumstances or will in the future. But, hopefully, this (settlement) will help," she said.

Auer also asked people to call their state lawmakers and urge them to pass laws that would require businesses that sell alcohol to obtain insurance coverage, and to make serving an intoxicated person a felony. It is now a misdemeanor. Hanrahan was never charged.

Auer said there is one other thing she wants but doesn't expect to get — an apology from Hanrahan.

"I insisted upon an apology, which has never come. I even offered to meet with the lawyers involved, but they have not had the decency to apologize to me," she said.

Bonanno said Auer's request for an apology was "probably a misstatement. John sees her in church and has gone to her many times and expressed his regret."


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Wednesday, January 5, 2005