Estate of late USC football coach adds to settlement in Five Points DUI death

jmonk@thestate.comMarch 24, 2013 


Running back George Rogers is flanked by his college coach Jim Carlen (L) of the University of South Carolina and his high school mentor, Cecil Morris of Duluth H.S. in a photograph taken in 1980 after being presented with the Heisman Trophy.


— If you lend your car to someone you know has a history of DUI arrests, you could wind up paying out huge damages if that person hits or kills someone while driving your car.

That’s one lesson from a recent $1.3 million settlement in the case of a young man who was struck and killed while crossing a Five Points intersection by another young man with a history of DUI convictions.

“You need to understand that you may be personally liable,” said Dick Harpootlian, the attorney for the family of the late Justin Timmerman.

Justin Timmerman, 24, was run over and dragged to his death killed last May in Five Points by a Land Rover SUV driven by William Holt Carlen, according to a lawsuit.

The SUV was owned by Carlen’s father, the late University of South Carolina former football coach Jim Carlen. The elder Carlen, who died several months later, had lent his SUV to his son, knowing his son had a history of DUI arrests, according to a lawsuit in the case.

The $1.3 million settlement payout came from the late Carlen’s estate and various insurance companies that had written policies on his SUV, as well as on the late coach.

The $1.3 million is the second settlement payout stemming from Timmerman’s death.

Timmerman’s estate received a $975,000 settlement, made public in January, from Jake’s Bar & Grill in Five Points. Surveillance cameras in the bar and on the sidewalks showed William Carlen visited the bar twice the night of the incident. Carlen’s bar tab during those two visits “totaled almost $200,” according to that lawsuit.

That lawsuit was brought against Jake’s under a state law that bans bars from selling beer or wine to intoxicated persons.

At the time of the incident, William Carlen, 24, had a blood-alcohol content of .20 – more than two times what is considered legal evidence for impaired driving, according to a warrant in the case. He was charged with felony DUI. The criminal case has not yet gone to trial.

Under terms of each of the two settlements, no one admitted fault in Timmerman’s death.

The latest settlement was with Meredith Carlen, Jim Carlen’s widow and personal representative of his estate, and with William Carlen. Specifically, it called for the estate to pay $275,000, with insurance companies paying the rest of the $1.3 million.

Attorney Jim Griffin, who represents Meredith Carlen, declined comment on the settlement, saying it would be “inappropriate.”

Attorney Joe McCulloch, who with attorney Todd Ellis represents William Carlen, also declined comment.

Jim Carlen, University of South Carolina football coach from 1975 to 1981, also provided his son with a credit card the son used to purchase alcohol at various bars and night clubs, according to the lawsuit. Carlen died last July at the age of 79.

Reach Monk at (803) 771-8344.

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