In 2009, 20-year-old Chelsea Hess met some friends at a sports grill in Bluffton, S.C., and was served alcohol, even though she was not 21, the legal drinking age in the state. Intoxicated, she drove away from the restaurant just after 1 a.m. and soon lost control of her car, rolling it off the road. Hess, who was not wearing a seatbelt, was thrown 20 feet (6 meters) from the vehicle, sustaining serious injuries that caused her to become a paraplegic.
Instead of taking responsibility for her actions, Hess filed a lawsuit against the sports grill and the South Carolina Department of Transportation (SCDOT) in December 2011. She accused the sports grill of negligence for selling her the alcoholic beverage without first verifying her age and ensuring that she was not already inebriated. Hess also blamed SCDOT, claiming that a defect in the shoulder caused her to flip her 2000 Mitsubishi. The department's failure to maintain the shoulder or mark the damaged area, according to the lawsuit, amounted to negligence. In response, SCDOT reasoned "that any injuries and/or damages sustained by the Plaintiff were due to and caused by the sole negligent, grossly negligent, reckless, careless, heedless, willful and wanton acts and/or omissions of Plaintiff."