Lawsuit to be filed in Hancock death

By Gene Phelps
Daily Journal

TUPELO – Attorneys for the father of the late St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Josh Hancock will file a lawsuit today against businesses and individuals the suit claims contributed to his death last month.

Named as defendants in the wrongful death suit are Mike Shannon's, a popular St. Louis restaurant, and its manager; a tow truck company and its driver; and the driver of a disabled vehicle.

The lawsuit will be filed in Missouri Circuit Court in St. Louis by Dean Hancock of Tupelo on behalf of the family.

The younger Hancock died early on the morning of April 29 when his rented sport utility vehicle struck the back of a flat-bed tow truck parked in the left lane of Interstate 64 in St. Louis. The tow truck was assisting a stalled vehicle.

The medical examiner's report said Josh Hancock's blood-alcohol level was 0.157, nearly twice Missouri's legal limit. The police investigation revealed that 8.55 grams of marijuana and a glass pipe were found in the player's vehicle.

The lawsuit does not specify an amount of monetary damages sought. Neither the Cardinals organization nor Major League Baseball is named as a defendant.

The suit, which presents only one side of the legal argument, says Josh Hancock became “visibly intoxicated” during a 3 1/2-hour stay at Mike Shannon's Restaurant.

The suit says the restaurant “seeks, invites, and benefits from the patronage of St. Louis Cardinals baseball players and other sports celebrities, many of whom become visibly intoxicated on the premises.” Mike Shannon, the owner, is a former Cardinals player and longtime team broadcaster.

Also named as a defendant is the manager of Mike Shannon's, Patricia Shannon Van Matre, whom the suit claims was aware that Hancock was intoxicated during his April 28 visit and knowingly allowed staff to continue to serve him alcohol until he left the restaurant at midnight.

These actions contributed to Hancock's death, the suit claims.

The suit also names as defendants Eddie's Towing and the driver of its tow truck, Jacob Edward Hargrove, as well as Justin Tolar, the driver of a stalled vehicle the tow truck had stopped to move.

Hargrove, the suit says, negligently parked his tow truck in the left lane of Interstate 64, blocked traffic and failed to adequately warn approaching motorists. The suit also claims that Tolar was negligent in allowing his car to become stalled and for failing to move the car out of oncoming traffic.

Again, the suit claims these actions contributed to Hancock's death.

In a statement released to the Daily Journal, Dean Hancock, the appointed administrator of his son's estate, said: “Unfortunately, my duties involve pursuing legal actions against those businesses and individuals who contributed to the death of Josh.”

Hancock is represented by the firm of Clayton, O'Donnell, Walsh and Davis of Tupelo and Oxford, and by Newman, Bronson and Wallis in St. Louis.

Statement of Dean Hancock, father of Josh Hancock:
“The facts and circumstances associated with the death of my son, Josh Hancock, have caused great pain to all of Josh's family. On May 18, 2007, I was appointed the Administrator of Josh's estate by the Chancellor of the Lee County, Mississippi Chancery Court. As the Administrator of Josh's estate, I have a duty to represent Josh's family regarding all of the issues related to his death and the overall administration of his estate, including any legal actions necessary against those who contributed to the untimely and unnecessary death of my son at the age of 29. As Josh's father, I have this same duty. Unfortunately, my duties involve pursuing legal actions against those businesses and individuals who contributed to the death of Josh.”