Metro-East News

Mother of Red Bud teen killed in crash files wrongful-death suit

Friends Abigail Liefer, left, and Hannah Porter were killed in a Jan. 10 car crash.
Friends Abigail Liefer, left, and Hannah Porter were killed in a Jan. 10 car crash. Provided photo

The mother of a Red Bud teen killed in a car crash has filed a lawsuit against the driver who allegedly caused the crash as well as three establishments that allegedly served alcohol to the underage driver.

Dawn Porter, mother of Hannah Porter, who was killed in a Jan. 10 car crash, has filed a wrongful-death lawsuit against Crystal Steinheimer, 20, of Red Bud in St. Clair County Court.

Hannah Porter, 20, of Red Bud was a passenger in a 2007 Chevrolet Cobalt driven by her friend Abigail Liefer, 19, of Ruma. They were traveling south on Illinois 159 at about 10:30 p.m. Jan. 10 near Sunset Lane in Monroe County. Steinheimer was driving a 2008 Chevy Aveo north on Illinois 159 and reportedly crossed the center line and struck Liefer’s car.

Both Liefer and Porter died, and passenger Grace Richards, 21, of Red Bud was injured. Steinheimer was also injured. Illinois State Police investigated the crash.

The lawsuit against Steinheimer, who could not be reached for comment, alleges she failed to keep control of the vehicle and keep a proper lookout and crossed the center line.

As a result of Hannah Porter’s death, her family has incurred and become liable for “large sums of money in hospital, medical and burial expenses.”

Dawn Porter is represented by Samantha Unsell of Keefe and Keefe P.C. in Belleville. “It was a horribly tragic accident,” Unsell said Friday. “We filed suit against the at-fault driver as well as the taverns that allegedly served this underage woman.”

Three establishments in Evansville also are listed as defendants in the suit, which alleges the bars served alcohol to Steinheimer. Steinheimer is 20. The legal drinking age in Illinois is 21.

The establishments named in the suit are Michael J’s Saloon, 602 Liberty St.; Water Street Bar and Grill, 201 Water St.; and Just Sue’s, 501 Liberty St.

Michael J. Stefani, owner of Michael J’s Saloon, and Susan K. Levery, owner of Just Sue’s, are also listed as defendants in the suit.

When reached by phone Friday, Stefani and Levery both declined to comment. A representative of Water Street Bar and Grill could not immediately be reached for comment.

Defendants in the suit have 30 days from when the suit was filed — Aug. 20 — to formally respond to the suit.

Unsell said she filed the suit in St. Clair County because the principal office for the Water Street Bar and Grill is located in Belleville. Water Street Bar and Grill is operated by KBB Growth LLC, which is located at 200 N. 72nd St. She said St. Clair County is therefore a proper venue for the suit.

The Illinois Dram Shop Act allows individuals to seek compensation against owners of businesses that sell liquor for physical injury or death of a person and damage to property caused by an intoxicated person.

Steinheimer’s blood-alcohol level was 0.179 percent — more than twice the 0.08 threshold for drunken driving in Illinois. Steinheimer was charged with aggravated driving under the influence and reckless homicide. She has pleaded not guilty to those charges in Monroe County.

The lawsuit seeks more than $825,000, according to court documents.

Contact reporter Jamie Forsythe at jforsythe1@bnd.com or 618-239-2562. Follow her on Twitter: @BND_JForsythe.

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