Osceola Casino Sued After Drunk Driving Suspect Crashes Into Patrol Car, Injures Cop

Written By Russ Mitchell on April 23, 2021
lakeside casino owi suit

A West Des Moines police officer has filed a dramshop lawsuit against Lakeside Hotel and Casino in the aftermath of a crash that took place just after midnight Sunday, Nov. 8, in Polk County.

Dramshop statutes can hold establishments responsible if a customer harms a third party after drinking too much at their place of business. In his lawsuit, officer Jon H. Kaufman claims the Osceola casino knew — or should have known — the customer was too intoxicated to receive more drinks.

The lawsuit wants to hold Lakeside Casino partially responsible for the crash, which took place about 40 miles north of the facility.

Lawsuit claims ‘wanton and willful disregard of safety’

Kaufman parked his patrol car on the outside shoulder of the northbound lane of Interstate 35. It was then struck by a rented Toyota Corolla driven by 61-year-old Jon H. Schwartz of Kellogg, IA.

The Polk County Attorney’s Office charged Schwartz with operating while intoxicated (OWI), a serious misdemeanor and serious injury by vehicle, a Class D felony; for driving “with a wanton and willful disregard of the safety of persons or property.”

Responding officer Kyle Slifka said Schwartz was:

  • Operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated.
  • Traveling on the shoulder of the road.
  • Watching a movie, “specifically Batman vs. Superman” on his smartphone or electronic device.
  • Driving in a reckless manner
  • Exceeding the speed limit
  • Failing to safely approach a stationary vehicle with flashing lights

Slifka also said Schwartz had “bloodshot watery eyes,” “slurred speech” and “smelled of an odor or an alcoholic beverage.” The driver still had a blood-alcohol reading of .104 two hours after the crash, according to Slikfa’s criminal complaint. The legal limit in Iowa is .08.

The lawsuit suggests Schwartz was going 77 mph in a 65 mph zone as well.

Report: Fellow casino patron tried to stop Schwartz from driving

PlayIa attempts to reach the injured officer’s attorney, Erik Luthens, were unsuccessful Friday; however, in a Des Moines Register story, Luthens told reporter William Morris that Schwartz “consumed at least 11 beers starting at about 4 p.m. on Nov. 7.”

Luthens also told the Register another casino patron “tried to dissuade Schwartz from driving” and “even challenged him to do a straight-line walk.”

Surveillance cameras recorded both the civilian sobriety test and Schwartz’s consumption of 11 beers at the casino. Luthens said investigators had obtained the footage, according to the Des Moines Register’s report.

Lawsuit names several defendants

Officer Kaufman and his wife, Dana, named Lakeside Hotel and Casino corporations HGI – Lakeside of Las Vegas, Z Capital Group of Lake Forest, IL, and Affinity Gaming of Las Vegas, in the lawsuit. The couple also named Schwartz and Hertz Vehicles as defendants.

They are seeking unspecified damages for past and future:

  • Physical and mental pain and suffering
  • Loss of full mind and body
  • Medical, hospital and medication expenses
  • Loss of earnings and earning capacity
  • Companionship lost by Dana Kaufman due to her husband’s injuries

Kaufman was in and out of consciousness for a week after the crash, according to Luthen’s newspaper interview. The officer has recovered enough to return to work.

Dramshop insurance is required for establishments to get liquor licenses in Iowa. The statute gets its name because drams are a unit of measurement in the liquor industry.

District Court Judge Joseph Seidlin set a Sept. 20 trial date in Des Moines for Schwartz to respond to the criminal charges. The Kaufmans filed their lawsuit April 13. The case doesn’t have a trial date yet.

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Russ Mitchell

Russ Mitchell has been covering news and sports in northwest Iowa since 1997, including 11 years as managing editor for one of the most acclaimed community newspapers in the state. He looks forward to keeping readers up to date on the growing sportsbook industry in Iowa.

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