Last month, we blogged about how in Alabama a drinking establishment can be liable if they knowingly serve alcohol to an intoxicated individual that then goes on to cause a serious drunk driving wreck. A terrible 2009 crash resulted in the death of an Alabama man that was a church music minister, husband and father to a young son. The father was ejected from his car when he was returning home from a church service, and an off-duty officer that was well over the legal limit of intoxication slammed into the father's vehicle.
The officer responsible for the death of this victim was convicted of reckless manslaughter and thereby sentenced to 12 years in prison. However, the wife of the victim wanted to send a clear message to ensure that no other families in Alabama would be torn apart in this manner again. She filed a wrongful death lawsuit on behalf of herself and her son following the death of her husband, naming the convicted drunk driver and the club that served him as liable parties in the death of her husband.
Reportedly, the off-duty Birmingham officer consumed a significant amount of alcohol in a car parked in the lot of a club. It appears that the establishment had knowledge of and condoned this type of behavior on their premises. Additionally, the lawsuit alleged that the club continued serving the off-duty officer when it was apparent he was intoxicated, and allowed him to leave when he was in no state to operate a vehicle. The jury agreed that both the club and officer were liable in this death.
Accordingly, the jury returned a $40 million verdict awarding damages to the family of the victim, to be paid by the club and officer. The wife of the victim said, "I felt, as a wife and a mother, that it was my responsibility as a citizen to do whatever I could to help keep this from happening to another family." Hopefully this award can give this family some sense of closure and justice in this Alabama tragedy.
Source: AL.com, "Ensley nightclub, former Birmingham police officer to pay more than $40 million to family of a man killed in drunken wreck," Kelsey Stein, Feb. 27, 2013