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Tiger Woods calls death of employee in lawsuit a ‘terrible ending’; attorneys claim video was destroyed

Golfweek logo Golfweek 5/14/2019 Bill Speros

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Tiger Woods Tuesday called the death of a former restaurant employee "sad" and a "terrible ending" during his pre-PGA Championship press conference at Bethpage Black in Farmingdale, N.Y.

Woods, his girlfriend Erica Herman, and the general manager of Woods' Jupiter, Fla., restaurant, face a wrongful death lawsuit brought by the parents of a Nicholas Immesberger. Immesberger was 24-year-old bartender at The Woods Jupiter.

Immesberger had an estimated blood alcohol concentration of 0.256 - more than three times the legal limit in Florida - when his 1999 Chevrolet Corvette left Federal Highway and overturned at about 6 p.m. on Dec. 10, 2018.

Tuesday, Woods was asked about the case during his pre-PGA Championship news conference. Woods is playing for the first time since his Masters victory a month ago today.

"We're all very sad that Nick passed away," Woods said. "It was a terrible night, a terrible ending. And we feel bad for him and his entire family. It's very sad."

The lawsuit filed in Palm Beach County Monday alleges Immesberger was over-served for about three hours after his shift at Woods' restaurant concluded at 3 p.m. the day of his death.

"Tiger knew, or reasonably should have known, that Immesberger was habitually addicted to the use of any or all alcoholic beverages, and/or was a habitual drunkard," the lawsuit claims. Immesberger had attended Alcoholics Anonymous meetings and had another alcohol-related crash in November, the suit adds.

The attorneys representing Immesberger's parents Tuesday in a press conference claimed video footage of Immesberger drinking for three hours on Dec. 10 has been "destroyed by the Woods."

Attorney Craig Goldenfarb said the video was allegedly "destroyed shortly after the crash had occurred" and was done "as a direct result of (Immesberger's) death and knowledge that he was there that night and they wanted to get rid of that evidence."

The attorney cited Florida law that holds an establishment responsible if it "knowingly serves a person habitually addicted to the use of any or all alcoholic beverage."

Goldenfarb said Immesberger's crash in November did not result in a police report and called it a "lost opportunity."

"Just like he ignored his own problem for years, he and his girlfriend chose to ignore this problem that his own employee had," attorney Spencer Kulvin said of Woods and Herman. Both Kulvin and Goldenfarb said Woods and Herman had been drinking with Immesberger a few nights prior to his fatal crash.

Goldenfarb said Herman was the general manager of the bar and "set the tone for the culture in that bar. And that culture was drinking and drinking to excess." He added neither Herman nor Woods were on site the day of Immesberger's death but that they are liable under state law because they own and manage the bar.

"The employees and management at The Woods had direct knowledge that Immesberger had a habitual problem with alcohol," the lawsuit added. "In fact, employees and managers knew that Immesberger had attended Alcoholic Anonymous meetings prior to the night of his crash and was attempting to treat his disease. Despite this, the employees and management at The Woods continued to serve Immesberger alcohol while he was working as well as after work, while he sat at the bar."

Immesberger was driving north at "a high rate of speed" when he lost control of the vehicle, an accident report says. The Corvette veered from an inside lane, crossing three lanes before it went airborne and overturned in a grass area. The lawsuit alleges Immesberger was traveling 70 MPH in a 55 MPH zone.

"I feel that they failed me. He referred to The Woods as his family and his friends. And when he needed them, they looked the other way," said Immesberger's mother, Mary Belowsky.

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