Brother of man killed in hit-and-run sues two Mulberry bars

A year after a Polk County man was killed by a hit and run driver, the man's brother is suing two bars he says served the driver alcohol in the hours before the crash.

Attorney Mark Sessums says Paul's death could've been prevented if bartenders hadn't knowingly over-served the driver who hit him.

November 6th, 2015, the Polk County Sheriff's Office says Wooten was riding his motorcycle on Bailey Road when John Stone rear-ended him with his pickup truck. Wooten died on impact. Stone kept going. He was arrested two days later for leaving the scene of a crash and tampering with evidence.

"All the family members have lost someone they loved and treasured very much," Sessums said.

Now, Corey Wooten, Paul's brother, is suing both the Mulberry American Legion and XYZ Liquors, which has since been turned into another business, for their roles the night of the crash.

According to the lawsuit, both businesses knowingly and willfully sold alcohol to Stone, "a person habitually addicted to the use of alcoholic beverages." Sessums says that's a violation of Florida's Dram Shop Law.

"You have to prove they knew he was a drunk that they served him knowing he was a drunk and that he left drunk," Sessums said.

Sessums said bartenders at XYZ said Stone had 5 drinks before he left. The owner of XYZ Liquors did not return our call.

The assistant bar manager at the American Legion told us Stone wasn't drinking there the night of the crash and hasn't been there in 3 years. Sessums says he needs to investigate if Stone was in fact at the American Legion on the night of the crash or if he was at another bar prior to XYZ.

"When I used to work at a bar many years ago when I was in college, you knew who the drunks were," Sessums said. "And, they knew this individual at XYZ had a problem with alcohol. Those are the people you don't serve. And, when you do serve them, you've got liability."

Any money awarded in the civil suit would go toward Wooten's two young children as well as his medical and funeral expenses.

"It was absolutely preventable," Sessums said. "There's no question this death could've been avoided if John Anthony Stone wasn't drunk on that particular night."

Jury selection for Stone's criminal case is November 28th.

Victor Velasquez drives past Paul Wooten's memorial every single day. More than a year after the crash, it still sits at the corner of Bailey Road and Wells Road.

"When his daughter Bailee comes out here, we bring the pups out," Velasquez said.

Though the pictures are faded, it's a reminder of a devoted father, a fisherman and a Gators fan whose life was taken in an instant.

"He was very outgoing to say the least," Velazquez said. "He could not have a bad day. Just always laughing for any reason."