Car accidents caused by drunk drivers are doubly tragic. First, innocent victims are injured or killed. Second, the accident probably would have been avoided if the driver had exercised restraint and did not attempt to drive while intoxicated. In 2008 in Kentucky alone, 226 of the 826 car accident fatalities were related to alcohol. Obviously, in these cases the driver who was under the influence and caused the accident should be held liable for damages to the victim’s car and any injuries sustained. However, many states have laws that make the bar or restaurant that served the alcohol to the intoxicated individual liable as well.
Currently, 43 states have “dram shop laws.” The name comes from a reference to a small drink of alcohol. Bars and taverns that sold alcohol were once called “dram shops.” These laws pertain to any establishment where alcohol is sold, whether a bar or restaurant. The laws state that businesses can only be considered liable for an incident if the employees knew that the patron was intoxicated and continued to serve him alcohol or allowed him to drive a vehicle rather than find him alternate transportation.
In the last two months, at least one dram shop case has ended and two more have been filed in three different states. In Mississippi, a $15 million judgment was handed down against Slippery Nick’s Saloon and Grill in a case involving the 2007 wrongful deaths of three young adults caused by a drunk driver. The case alleged that the intoxicated driver was served alcohol even though she was visibly drunk. She was also allowed to drive away in her vehicle. Although the parents of the young adults killed do not expect to receive any of the judgment money since the bar did not have liability insurance and has since closed, they felt it was important to file the suit to hold the bar owner accountable and hopefully prevent this tragedy from happening to someone else.
In Florida, a woman has filed a lawsuit against the Suite Nightclub in Pensacola after her husband was killed by a drunk driver leaving the nightclub. The suit alleges that the employees knew the driver was an alcoholic, but still allowed the band performing at the club to pour shots down his throat. Damages requested in the suit include lost wages of the deceased, pain and suffering for his widowed wife, and damages and attorneys’ fees.
An Ashville, North Carolina couple have filed suit against four separate bars after their daughter was killed by a drunk driver who was served at all four locations. After her last stop, Jennifer Kessler left Temptations Red Room around 2:45 a.m. on October 2, 2010, and drove westward in the eastbound lanes of I-240, colliding head-on with the victim. Her blood-alcohol content was 0.262, three times the legal limit. All four establishments state they did not know Kessler was drunk and are seeking to have the charges dismissed.