Damages order leaves Kernersville nightclub’s status unclear after alcohol-related accident

by Jordan Green

A Kernersville nightclub was ordered to pay a trucking company more than $115,000 by a Forsyth County judge in late January after a jury found the business liable for a deadly tractor-trailer accident caused by a patron who left the nightclub after drinking there.

A Jan. 22 order by Superior Court Judge Moses Massey requires the InZone to pay compensatory damages of $104,250 to Roadway, a truck company headquartered in Akron, Ohio with facilities in Kernersville. The next day the judge added $11,041, the amount of Roadway’s court costs, to the InZone’s tab.

The order followed a unanimous jury decision on Dec. 7 siding with Roadway in the plaintiff’s complaint that InZone employees served alcoholic beverages to Mickey Joe Hayes after he became obviously intoxicated – a violation of North Carolina law. Court records indicate that Nicole Lynn Day, Gerri Luth and Lori Martin served alcohol on the night of March 6, 2004, shortly before the deadly accident.

A motion filed by the InZone in June 2006 countered that there was no evidence that the nightclub or its employees “provided alcoholic beverages to Hayes after he became intoxicated.”

After Hayes and two friends, Ryan Presslar and Josh Hazelwood, left the InZone, Roadway’s complaint states that Hayes attempted to pass a tractor-trailer driven by Joseph Horn on the right shoulder of the road. When the two vehicles collided, Horn was killed and his rig was destroyed. A State Bureau of Investigation-administered blood test found that Hayes’ blood had an alcohol concentration of 0.10 grams per 100 milliliters of blood.

The status of the InZone is unclear. An outgoing phone message still publicizes a series of weekly events at the nightclub, which is energetically characterized by a male voice as “party central of the Triad.” The doors of the sprawling venue with fieldstone facing and a fenced-in patio were locked on two weekday evening visits in January. Owner David Lynn did not return several messages. On Jan. 30, a notice affixed to a roadside sign indicated that warehouse space was available.

The nightclub lies on a busy stretch of Highway 66 that connects Interstate 40 and Business 40 south of downtown Kernersville. Several truck lots, including one belonging to Roadway, share frontage on the thoroughfare.

Judge Massey’s order for the InZone to pay some $115,000 only covers the nightclub’s liability to Roadway. The truck driver’s widow, Constance Sue Horn, initially joined Roadway as a plaintiff in the case, which also named Hayes as a defendant. At the beginning of the trial, Superior Court Judge Lindsay R. Davis Jr. separated Horn’s claims from those of the trucking company.

– Jordan Green