Bar Faces Wrongful Death Lawsuit in Drunk Driving Death of Teen

A 17-year-old girl from Northeast Ohio was killed in March while returning home from a day spent with her family. She had texted her mother to tell her she was broke down on the side of the road after her vehicle had overheated. That’s when a 63-year-old man allegedly slammed into the back of her vehicle on the interstate.highwayexposure

At the hospital, she was pronounced dead. She was a National Honors Society student with a 3.7-GPA who played three instruments and volunteered on projects to help those less fortunate.

Meanwhile, the man who is accused of drunkenly driving a car and causing the fatal crash, was charged with two counts of aggravated vehicular homicide and three counts of operating a vehicle while intoxicated. He had reportedly been at a bar that night to watch a family member’s band play. He was served alcohol. When his blood was later tested by law enforcement, it was 0.204 percent – more than double the legal limit of 0.08. 

Now, the girl’s family has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against not just the driver but the bar where he was served the alcohol.

These types of lawsuits, known as “dram shop lawsuits,” seek accountability of bars, restaurants, liquor stores and other venues that irresponsibly or illegally serve alcohol to patrons who then go on to harm others, usually by driving a vehicle drunk. Every state has different standards for this accountability.

For example in Ohio, where this case is unfolding, Ohio Revised Code 4399.18 will allow an individual injured by someone intoxicated to seek damages from an alcohol vendor if:

  • The injuries occurred on vendor’s property and were caused by vendor’s negligence OR
  • Injuries occurred off vendor’s property and vendor knowingly sold alcohol to someone who was either noticeably intoxicated or under 21, the legal age of purchase.

In South Carolina, there actually is no “dram shop law.” However, what we do have is an established case law precedent that allows drunk driving accident victims to pursue bars and other alcohol vendors for liability when the alleged drunk driver was a patron who:

  • Was under the age of 21 OR
  • Was obviously intoxicated.

In North Carolina, it’s actually quite a bit tougher to hold an alcohol vendor liable for drunk driving injuries. N.C.G.S. 18B-121 holds that alcohol vendors can only be liable if:

  • The bar or restaurant negligently served or sold drinks to someone under 21 AND
  • That minor causes a car accident while under the influence of alcohol that was served/ sold by the defendant AND
  • The accident and injuries were proximately caused by minor’s negligent driving while drunk.

There is no provision for service of alcohol to patrons who are “obviously intoxicated.”

Even in South Carolina where that provision exists, our Spartanburg drunk driving accident lawyers know challenges can arise in proving when intoxication was “obvious.” There is no law that requires bars to carry liability insurance for drunk patrons, though commercial liability policies will generally cover dram shop law verdicts, which often include punitive damages.

If you have been a victim of a drunk driver in South Carolina or North Carolina, let us help you hold accountable those involved.

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

Additional Resources:

Tallmadge man, bar accused of selling him alcohol before deadly crash face wrongful death lawsuit, June 10, 2016, By Nick Glunt,

More Blog Entries:

Turner v. Dept. of Transportation – Dangerous Intersection, June 12, 2016, Spartanburg Drunk Driving Accident Attorney Blog

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