Dram Shop Liability: $10.5 Million Awarded To Victim's Family

It is common knowledge that drunk driving is illegal and if a driver is found to be over the legal limit and causes an accident, they will face serious consequences including possible jail time. Further, the drunk driver could face a financially draining civil lawsuit if the drunk driver seriously injures or kills a victim in an accident.

However, some residents of Huntsville may not realize that if they are seriously injured or a loved one is killed by a drunk driver, a drinking establishment can in some circumstances also be held liable, in addition to the drunk driver. This is referred to as dram shop liability.

Dram shop liability, however, is more difficult to prove. In order for a drinking establishment like a bar or restaurant, or a store that sells alcohol to be held liable under these laws, it must be proven before a judge and jury that the establishment knowingly served alcohol to an intoxicated individual. Further, it must also be proved that the alcohol knowingly served to that intoxicated individual directly related to an accident that caused injury or death to a victim.

If these circumstances are found to be a factor in an accident, the establishment could also be held financially liable. In a drunk driving accident that happened outside of Alabama, a 23-year-old woman was leaving an establishment that served alcohol when another individual that was also leaving the establishment ran her over with his vehicle. The car was a monster truck that was modified in a variety of manners and had huge tires, which effectively crushed this victim to death when the drunk driver did not see her exit the club.

The victim's family was of course devastated. Accordingly, they filed a lawsuit alleging both the driver and drinking establishment liable for this young woman's death. The driver was found to be at twice the legal limit when he ran over the victim, accordingly, the jury decided that the drinking establishment was in fact responsible in this death because they should have known how intoxicated this man was, yet they still served him and then he killed someone. Consequently, a $10.5 million dram shop verdict was awarded.

While this award will not bring back the 23-year-old, it hopefully lends the family some closure and stands as a staunch warning to establishments that serve alcohol.

Source: The Dallas Morning News, "$10.5 million award in 'monster truck' death at club," Bruce Tomaso, Feb. 20, 2013