A grieving father has filed a South Carolina dram shop lawsuit in which he accuses a bar in Columbia of over-serving a motorcyclist to the point where he became grossly intoxicated, and soon after got on his motorcycle and crashed it, resulting in the death of his passenger/ friend. The case was outlined in a recent article published by The State.
This type of lawsuit (here filed by the 19-year-old decedent’s father) is known as a “dram shop lawsuit.” These are lawsuits against bars, restaurants, taverns or other establishments that sell alcoholic drinks. Litigation is filed after patrons are served so much alcohol they become greatly impaired and subsequently cause harm to themselves or others – usually in the form of a drunk driving accident.
In South Carolina, there is no “dram shop law,” courts in the state have accepted dram shop claims that have resulted in legal precedent.
For example in the case of Jamison v. The Pantry, Inc., a 1990 case decided by the South Carolina Court of Appeals, a 19-year-old driver illegally purchased a case of beer from a local convenience store. Less than an hour later, that same 19-year-old was driving and collided with another vehicle, killing one and injuring several others. Officers determined the youth’s blood-alcohol level to be 0.135 – well over the legal limit even for over-21 adults. The court decided the injured passengers could file a claim against the convenience store on the basis that the accident was a reasonably foreseeable result of selling beer to an underage driver.
The precedent ultimately set by the South Carolina Supreme Court is that bars can be liable for resulting car accidents when they serve to:
- Patrons who are under the age of 21;
- Patrons who are obviously intoxicated.
But determining when exactly bars are supposed to cut patrons off – and at what point they can be liable – may prove difficult. The state doesn’t have any statutes that require establishments to train workers to identify when a patron may be too intoxicated and need “cut off.” There is also no statute that mandates bars carry liability insurance for patrons in the event the staff over-serves someone who ends up causing a drunk driving accident.
Business owners argue they can’t always tell who is consuming the drinks they serve. Often, drinks get passed around after they are purchased. Plus, they say it isn’t easy to determine when someone has had too much.
In the case recently filed out of Columbia, it’s alleged that a 20-year-old man entered the bar and purchased and consumed alcohol for several hours that night. The lawsuit alleges the bar staff either knew or should have known, based on the number of drinks this young man consumed, that he was intoxicated.
Soon after he left the bar, he traveled on his motorcycle to pick up a friend to go riding that night. She got on, he took off at a high rate of speed. He lost control, careened off the roadway, struck a fence and decedent was thrown from the bike. It was about 2:30 a.m. She was pronounced dead at the scene due to massive injuries. That was last summer. In December, a grand jury indicted him for felony DUI causing death and reckless homicide.
Although the criminal trial is still pending, the motorcyclist insurers settled their portion of the wrongful death civil action for $124,000. The motorcyclist denied fault as part of that settlement.
While this case against the bar is pending, others have gone to trial with varied success. For example last year, a jury in Richland County awarded $3.85 million to the family of a 6-year-old killed by a drunk driver who had just left the bar. The establishment had reportedly been serving alcohol even after closing time, and reportedly did so to an obviously intoxicated person, who was later revealed to be the one behind the wheel of the car that killed the child.
In November, the family of a 24-year-old man sued a bar for allegedly serving a University of South Carolina football player multiple drinks while he was obviously intoxicated. That player was later convicted of felony DUI resulting in death, and was sentenced to 10 years in prison. The bar later agreed to pay a settlement just shy of $1 million, but denied any wrongdoing.
Contact the Carolina injury lawyers at the Lee Law Offices by calling 800-887-1965.
Lawsuit: Vista bar overserved motorcyclist, led to passenger’s death, May 21, 2016, By John Monk, The State
More Blog Entries:
Car Accident Lawsuit Seeks $20M in Damages Caused by Drunk Cable Truck Driver, May 17, 2016, Charlotte Car Accident Lawyer Blog