The Tennessee Supreme Court – Gary L. West’s Story

On Sep 2, 2005, The Tennessee Supreme Court issued a landmark decision: Gary L. West v. East Tennessee Pioneer Oil. The ruling expanded potential liability in sales to inebriated customers. “Tennessee businesses selling products to visibly intoxicated people are subject to more liability.” The Court found that a convenience store had a duty not to sell gasoline to an inebriated customer who later was involved in a head-on collision.

This landmark Case is the basis of this True Story that lead up to that Decision On July 22, 2000, Gary West was traveling northbound on U.S. Highway 11W, in Knox County, Tennessee, in the dead of night. On the exact same night and exactly at the same time, on the very same road, Brian Lee Tarver was driving southbound in the wrong northbound lane. Tarver crashed head-on into West’s automobile causing severe personal injury and property damage. Just minutes before the accident,

Tarver had been a customer at a gas station’s convenience store located at 7606 Rutledge Pike. Pioneer Oil was the owner/operator of that store. The store clerk, Dorothy Thomas, testified that on the night of the accident, Tarver was visibly “drunk” and “staggering” while at the store immediately prior to the accident. She refused his drunken demand to buy beer, but she did choose to sell the same very drunk Tarver three dollars ($3.00) worth of gasoline. After buying the gas, Tarver was so drunk that he couldn’t even walk out the store’s door properly. And more importantly, not only did he stagger to the pumps; he couldn’t even pump the gas in his car. Another employee, Candice Drinnon, actually had to help him pump the gas, because he was too drunk to figure out how to do so himself! Ms. Drinnon then watched as Tarver drove away going southbound in the wrong lane of traffic without his headlights on. At no time did any of the gas station’s employees attempt to notify the police of Tarver’s actions and his obviously intoxicated state.

Today, The Insider Exclusive goes behind the headlines to meet Greg Coleman of Coleman Edwards, who successfully took this case all the way to the Tennessee Supreme Court to fight for and get justice for Gary West.

Gregory F. Coleman is a highly distinguished attorney who focuses on products liability, litigation, medical malpractice, person injury, complex multi-district litigation, toxic torts, premises liability, class actions, ERISA, ERISA class actions, drug and medical device litigation, and workers’ compensation.

He has tried more than 100 jury trials and countless bench trials. A graduate of Jacksonville State University and the University of Tennessee College of Law, where he was a member of the National Trial Moot Court Team and the recipient of the American Jurisprudence Award for National Trial Team, Greg has been recognized by his colleagues for his outstanding work. He is a Charter Member and Fellow of the Litigation Counsel of America. Coleman Edwards, P.C. aggressively pursues clients’ rights for all types of motor vehicle accidents, including those involving drunk drivers, hit and run drivers, and uninsured/under-insured drivers.

The firm also represents those victims who have been injured in tractor-trailer accidents, workers compensation, toxic tort, asbestos related diseases, and all areas of personal injury. The foundation of the firm’s philosophy in the practice of law is that protecting clients’ rights and interests is the most important thing. You can contact Greg Coleman at 800-487-8669, or