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DUI Injury of Child Spurs Dram Shop Lawsuit Against Bars

The mother of a child left paralyzed, brain damaged and forever scarred has filed a lawsuit against not just the man who was driving drunk that night, but also against the two bars that served him that night. 

This lawsuit, filed separately from the three others brought by the estates of three persons killed in the drunk driving crash that night, alleges the driver downed 13 beers – plus a free shot of liquor – at two bars in the hours before the crash. At just 26, he worked as an assistant baseball coach at Anderson University in South Carolina. But that night, instead of guiding youths to greatness, his actions ended the lives of three young people, a 17-year-old girl, a 20-year-old woman and a 22-year-old man. That same recklessness nearly claimed the life of an 11-year-old girl, and probably would have had it not been for the quick and brave actions of a sheriff’s deputy with paramedic training who was first on scene. He found a faint trace of life, and gave her an emergency tracheotomy, right there on the scene.

Now, according to The State newspaper, that defendant has been convicted of numerous felonies relating to his actions that night. The young girl whose life was saved? She is now 13 and requires around-the-clock medical care. Her mother is now seeking justice from the business establishments she say should have known better than to continue serving the defendant driver alcohol, knowing he was clearly already drunk. 

This type of claim of liability, brought by a victim of drunk driving against the establishment that served the drunk driver, is known as a dram shop action. These laws vary from state-to-state.

In Florida, dram shop laws are fairly restrictive, and don’t provide as much avenue for recompense as our Orlando drunk driving accident injury lawyers would like. Specifically, F.S. 768.125 says that injured drunk driving victims cannot hold liable a person who sold alcohol to a drunk driver UNLESS that driver was under the age of 21 OR he or she was known to be habitually addicted to alcohol. That’s a pretty tall order.

South Carolina, the dram shop liability precedent is more favorable toward victims. Although the state doesn’t have a “dram shop law,” the state supreme court held in 1985 that bar owners who violated criminal statute by forbidding service of alcohol to intoxicated persons could find themselves facing down a civil lawsuit for the very same offense. The key in these cases is typically proving staffers at the establishment knew or should have known the individual was drunk.

In this case, the lawsuit alleges workers at the two bars should have not only refused defendant driver service, they should have called him a taxi or an Uber. He had been given at least one free shot at one bar and downed more than a half dozen beers before heading to the next establishment. While there, he hugged and flirted with a waitress. He also had a conversation with the on-duty manager. This suggests the staffers had interacted with him and were close enough to have noted his level of impairment. They also watched him walk out the door.

Just 15 minutes later, he would lose control and crash his vehicle into another.

The lawsuits brought by the family members of the deceased were previously dismissed without prejudice, with the families intending to refile soon, now that the criminal case against the driver has concluded.

Call Freeman Injury Law — 1-800-561-7777 for a free appointment to discuss your rights. Now serving Orlando, West Palm Beach, Port St. Lucie and Fort Lauderdale.

Additional Resources:

Anderson bars — Hooters and The Bench — named in new DUI lawsuit, Aug. 18, 2016, By Mike Ellis, The State

More Blog Entries:

Road Debris a Major Hazard on Florida Roadways, AAA Reports, Aug. 18, 2016, Orlando Car Accident Attorney Blog

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