Lawyer: Sorry For Ethnic Slur

An attorney suing Dollar Rent-A-Car has apologized for filing a lawsuit that characterized the Irish as hopelessly tethered to pubs and pints and unfit to drive the highways of America.

John Stemberger admitted he made a mistake and promised Wednesday to rewrite the negligence lawsuit he filed in March.

The suit was filed on behalf of the family of Carmel Elizabeth Cunningham, an Irish woman who was killed last year when her boyfriend, Sean McGrath, crashed their rental car. He is also Irish.

Prosecutors say McGrath, 33, was drunk at the time of the crash and have charged him with manslaughter. A warrant has been issued for his arrest.

In the suit, Stemberger claimed Dollar "knew or should have known about the unique cultural and ethnic customs existing in Ireland which involve the regular consumption of alcohol at `Pubs' as a major component to Irish social life."

He went on to charge that Dollar "knew or should have known that Sean McGrath would have a high propensity to drink alcohol."

Irish-Americans didn't appreciate someone turning a crude cultural stereotype into a barometer of individual behavior.

"That enrages me," said Kathleen Reineke, past president of the local Irish American Club. "That would be like saying all blacks steal. It falls under the same category."

After a barrage of incensed calls, Stemberger said he would rewrite the suit.

"I want to express my deepest regret to the Irish who have been offended," he said. "I recognize the mistake."

Stemberger said he had already planned to amend the lawsuit to focus on Ireland's different driving conditions and the duty that should be imposed on car rental companies to make sure Irish drivers can handle American roads.

Peyton Hodges, an attorney for Dollar, said he did not know Stemberger's motivation for amending the suit.

"My guess is the sentiment was so overwhelming and so negative the guy finally woke up," he said.

As for Stemberger's latest theory, Dollar gives all customers brochures explaining penalties for drunken driving and warning them to drive on the right side of the road, company vice president Tom Adams said.

But Stemberger said Dollar doesn't do nearly enough to teach drivers from Ireland and the United Kingdom about U.S. driving rules, including blood-alcohol limits, open-container laws and the drinking age.

"I want Irish-Americans to know because of Dollar's negligence, Ireland has lost one of its daughters," he said. "I view myself as an advocate trying to protect the Irish, in this case."