The family of a Helena man killed by a drunk driver last February has filed a civil lawsuit against a pair of bars in Helena and East Helena. 

Attorneys filed the civil suit for the estate of Samuel S. Tielking Thursday. Tielking, who was 25 at the time, was driving on U.S. Highway 12 between Helena and East Helena Feb. 22 when 46-year-old Chester French of Helena crossed into his lane, striking his vehicle head-on. Both men died at the scene.

The lawsuit names Hap’s Beer Parlor of Helena and its liquor license owner Donald Lytle, along with Cory-Dullum Post 10010 VFW in East Helena, as defendants.

The lawsuit alleges that French spent the day drinking at various establishments in Helena, Elliston, Boulder and Butte. Shortly before 7 p.m., the lawsuit alleges he entered Hap’s and received multiple drinks despite signs of intoxication visible on surveillance video. The lawsuit goes on to allege that French arrived at the VFW at about 9:30 p.m., and was also served an undetermined number of drinks there.

The collision occurred at 10:12 p.m. Reports allege that French was driving 75 miles per hour in a 55 mile-per-hour zone and had a blood alcohol level of 0.275, more than three times the legal limit.

The lawsuit alleges negligence and wrongful death against both establishments, and spoliation of evidence against the VFW. The lawsuit further claims that statutory limits on liability are unconstitutional, and should be rendered void by the court.

The lawsuit asks for compensatory and punitive damages and attorney fees.

Criminal charges were not filed against either establishment or employees of either establishment.

A man answering the phone at Hap’s Friday afternoon said he was unaware of the lawsuit.

A woman answering the phone at the VFW said a manager or owner was unavailable.

Reporter Tom Kuglin can be reached at 447-4076 @IR_TomKuglin

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