A woman in Iowa who was injured in a drunk driving accident after an allegedly impaired driver crashed into a motorcycle on which she was a passenger is now suing the bar that served the drunk driver.
If you are unfamiliar, this type of case involves something called, “dram shop liability.” In essence, the idea is to hold purveyors of alcohol (i.e., restaurants, bars, clubs, etc.) liable when they negligently serve alcohol to patrons, who in turn get behind the wheel drunk and injure themselves or someone else. The term “dram” refers to a liquid measurement once used to serve alcohol.
Dram shop liability laws vary widely from state-to-state. Some states make it very difficult to bring such claims against an establishment, while others have rules that are more relaxed. In North Carolina, we fall somewhere in between. North Carolina General Statutes section 18B-121 limits claims against a permitted alcohol sales establishment only if that business negligently sold or furnished drinks to a minor under the age of 21. Even then, plaintiffs would need to show the consumption of the alcoholic beverage caused or contributed – in whole or in part – to the underage driver being impaired at the time of the injury and further that the injury was proximately caused by an under-aged driver’s negligent operation of the vehicle while so impaired.
Other states – like Iowa – allow those injured in drunk driving accidents to sue for dram shop liability for negligent sale of alcohol regardless of age. Usually, this means selling to someone who is clearly intoxicated or who is known to be an alcoholic. (South Carolina does not have a specific dram shop law, but case law precedent allows claimants there to file lawsuits for damages caused by the negligent sale of alcohol either to minors or those who are visibly intoxicated.)
In the case recently filed in Iowa, plaintiff, 42, was a passenger on a motorcycle driven by a 43-year-old friend. According to the original complaint, the motorcycle operator was entering an intersection when a 49-year-old driver of a car failed to yield the right-of-way and pulled out in front of the motorcycle. The driver of the motorcycle was killed. Passenger/plaintiff suffered severe personal injuries.
The driver of the car, meanwhile, repeatedly refused testing to ascertain whether he was drunk at the time of the fatal crash. Officers had no choice but to secure a warrant for a blood test. Even hours after the accident, he was found to be under the influence of alcohol. Later, he pleaded guilty to homicide by vehicle and was sentenced to prison for 25 years.
Now, plaintiff’s lawsuit alleges staff at the bar the car driver patronized prior to the crash knew or should have known he was being served to the point of intoxication – and beyond.
A law firm representing the bar has denied all claims, so the case is now on track for a trial. Plaintiff is seeking compensation for medical expenses, lost wages, future loss of earning capacity, loss of full body and mind function, physical pain and suffering and mental anguish.
Contact the Carolina injury lawyers at the Lee Law Offices by calling 800-887-1965.
Woman sues Mason City bar after motorcycle accident, March 6, 2017, By Mary Pieper, Globe Gazette
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