TOPEKA, Kan. — In most states bartenders face serious trouble if they over-serve, and it leads to a bad crash. But not in Kansas.
Jeff Kudlacik got the call from his lawyer Friday that he would not be able to sue two bars that he says over-served a patron in 2015. But that ruling is not stopping him from pushing forward to change the law.
“I’ll keep fighting the rest of my life, if I have to,” Kudlacik said.
Kudlacik’s fight started four years ago the day he turned 23, the day he was nearly killed by a drunk driver. Police said the drunk driver ran a red light and plowed into Kudlasic’s car at 70 miles per hour, splitting it in two.
His former speech therapist, now fiance, Elizabeth Ford helped him through countless surgeries, and slowly moving from wheelchair, to walker, then cane.
“He still had an injured vocal cord so we had to help him get his voice back,” Ford said.
Kudlacik found his voice. The once aspiring med student changed his sights to the law, more specifically to change it.
“I’m lucky I’m alive so I can do that fight,” Kudlacik said. “But there’s other people that won’t be.”
Right now, Kansas is one of six states that does not allow a person hurt in a crash involving a drunk driver to sue the bar that served the alcohol.
“If the bars are more mindful of that possibility, then maybe they would have more strict regulations or stricter rules,” Kudlacik said.
On Friday the Kansas Supreme Court upheld that decades old common law rule, saying Kudlacik would have to take it to the legislature to get it changed.
“I’d rather have someone be mad at me and leave the bar mad that I cut them off” Kudlacik said. “And keep living life than to go out and fatally hurt somebody or hurt themselves.”
Although he knows this could be an uphill battle, Kudlacik is urging lawmakers to be proactive so they don’t have to endure the same pain inflected on him and his family or worse.
“I’m lucky because I survived,” Kudlacik said. “But there’s going to be a family that’s going to lose a child and they’re going to lose a parent or a sister or a brother or a friend from a situation just like this and it will keep happening so I want to try to put a stop to it or at least mitigate it.”
Kudlacick said he plans to meet with his lawyers to come up with a game plan in the near future.