Plaintiff Sought $14 Million, But Jury Returns Defense Verdict

, The Connecticut Law Tribune

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Jan Trendowski
Jan Trendowski

Nicole Dzienis v. Pig's Eye Pub: A young woman who was left partially paralyzed following a car crash was unable to win a lawsuit against a bar that served alcohol to her underage friend, who was driving.

The plaintiff, Nicole Dzienis, sought $14 million in damages from the Pig's Eye Pub in Hartford. But a jury decided that the bar was not at fault for her severe injuries. However, those with knowledge of the case said Dzienis still collected more than $1 million in settlements from other parties.

On the evening of Aug. 8, 2007, Dzienis, now 26, and her friend, Lindsay Duhaine, went to an art show in West Hartford and then to a restaurant and bar called the Elbow Room, which is also in West Hartford.

From there, the pair met up with another friend, Madeline Pinches, to go to the Pig's Eye Pub in downtown Hartford. When the trio arrived at the Asylum Street establishment, Dzienis felt sick to her stomach and opted to remain in the car while her friends went inside.

A lawyer for the Pig's Eye Pub, Jan Trendowski of Trendowski & Allen in Centerbrook, said Dzienis had eaten fettuccine alfredo at the Elbow Room and washed it down with "Irish car bombs"—a cocktail containing Guinness stout, Bailey's Irish Cream and Jameson Irish Whiskey.

Trendowski noted that Duhaine, who was driving that night, used the valid driver's license of someone who looked like her to gain entrance into the Pig's Eye, as she was still a few weeks shy of her 21st birthday. At the bar, Duhaine had three or four more drinks over the course of a couple hours. Eventually, Pinches, Duhaine and her boyfriend left the bar and got back into the car to head home.

At about 1 a.m., Duhaine was involved in a collision on Cedar Street in Newington. Trendowski said that a car had stopped suddenly in a line of traffic because the young driver, who had been texting, dropped her cellphone onto the car floor. The next car in the line of traffic noticed the sudden stop and was able to avoid a collision. But Duhaine, who was also texting while driving, smashed into the rear of the second vehicle at 40 mph to 50 mph, according to Trendowski.

Dzienis was thrown into the dashboard upon impact. She was rushed to the hospital and doctors discovered that she had shattered three vertebrae in her neck. Over time, said Trendowski, she has regained some use of her left arm, but has no use of the right arm and is without any feeling from the chest down.

"She actually trained herself to walk although she can't feel her legs," said Trendowski. "It's stiff-legged but she can actually walk. It's incredible what she's able to do."

Dzienis had worked as a graphic designer before the accident. She is now permanently disabled and will require medical assistance for the remainder of her life.

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