North Carolina Dram Shop Lawsuit in Drunk Driving Crash

A North Carolina wrongful death lawsuit against a drunk driver was amended recently to add as defendants two local bars that allegedly served alcohol to an underage person who was visibly intoxicated. wreckedcar3.jpg

That driver, a 20-year-old man from Asheboro, reportedly patronized two Chapel Hill bars using a fake identification before climbing behind the wheel of his Jeep and driving the wrong direction on I-85 in Hillsborough. He was traveling north in the southbound lanes in July when his vehicle collided with a passenger vehicle, killing three people – including a 6-year-old girl – and seriously injuring a 9-year-old girl.

Authorities later determined the Jeep driver had a blood-alcohol concentration of 0.17, which is more than twice the level of North Carolina’s threshold for drunk driving, which 0.08. He also allegedly had marijuana in his system.

Charlotte DUI injury lawyers know that North Carolina’s dram shop law, as codified in North Carolina G.S. 18B-121, permits those wronged by underage drunk drivers to sue a local bar or the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board if:

  • The bar or local board negligently sold or furnished alcohol to someone under the age of 21;
  • The consumption of the alcohol provided to the minor caused or contributed to in whole or in part the the underage person being impaired at the time of injury;
  • The resulting injury was proximately caused by the underage driver’s negligent operation of a vehicle while he or she was intoxicated.

The statute is limiting in that it only allows recovery when the driver was a minor.

South Carolina standards are a bit different. There is no dram shop statute codified in the law, but there is a precedent of case law that allows for recovery in such cases. Essentially, those injured or survivors of those killed by a drunk driver may sue a bar or other establishment if it’s shown defendant served alcohol to a minor or “visibly intoxicated adult,” and the intoxicated person went on to negligently operate a vehicle and cause injury or death to others.

In the wrongful death lawsuit filed recently stemming from the Hillsborough crash, the Alcohol Beverage Control Commission had already cited the two bars for violations in connection with this case.

The daughter of one of the women killed has filed the lawsuit, asserting the owners of the bars were negligent in not only serving alcohol to a minor, but one who was already visibly intoxicated. She alleges the bars did not have adequate enforcement procedures among employees to ensure underage patrons weren’t drinking or to stop the service of alcohol to patrons who were already drunk.

The lawsuit also names the allegedly drunk driver, from who she is seeking punitive damages for willful misconduct. His parents also have been accused of negligence for allowing their son to drive the Jeep they owned.

Driver is facing serious criminal charges that could potentially put him behind bars for decades.

An online poll by WRAL.com surveyed 500 viewers, finding more than half supported liability action against bars that serve patrons who drink and then drive. Another 12 percent believed the bar employee should be personally held liable.

In some cases, it does happen that individual employees are found negligent. However, plaintiffs usually pursue cases against the establishment/employer for two reasons. The first is the legal principal of respondeat superior, which holds a company accountable for actions taken by its workers in the course and scope of employment. The second reason is that individual employees typically don’t personally have the financial assets to pay a judgment in a wrongful death or serious injury lawsuit. Bars, on the other hand, are typically insured for this purpose.

Contact the Carolina injury lawyers at the Lee Law Offices by calling 800-887-1965.

Additional Resources:
Bars added to wrongful death suit in fatal I-85 crash, Aug. 31, 2015, Staff Report, WRAL.com

More Blog Entries:
Lawsuit Against Bar That Served Drunk Driver Who Injured Family Settled, Aug. 23, 2015, Charlotte Drunk Driving Accident Lawyer Blog

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