On Thursday, the Supreme Court in Washington State unanimously voted to reinstate a $14 million award to a family who sued a tavern and a bartender after one of the bar’s customers drove away from the establishment and crashed into their vehicle. Their 7-year-old-son is now a paraplegic due to the tragic collision.
According to information from an Associated Press article, the law states that bartenders who serve visibly intoxicated customers are liable for damages to potential victims. At question was the type of evidence needed to prove “negligent over-service”. Most states have so-called “dram shop” laws that can make taverns or bartenders – and in some states, even social hosts – liable for damages if they serve intoxicated customers who leave the premises and harm themselves or others.
It was noted by Washington State’s justices that a forensic consultant found that the bar patron likely drank the equivalent of either 21 12-ounce beers or 30 ounces of 80-proof alcohol, and probably had a blood alcohol content of 0.32 at the time of the collision. The legal blood alcohol limit in Washington State is 0.08.
The man was drinking at the Bellingham Moose Lodge, about 90 miles north of Seattle, just before the April 2000 auto accident in Washington. His girlfriend was the bartender at the lodge and served him the night of the accident.
After leaving the lodge, the man drove his car across the center line of a road in nearby Ferndale. His car collided with a NYC woman who was driving with her two children and an infant grandchild. The man was killed in the crash, and everyone in the woman’s car was injured, including the 7-year-old who is now paraplegic.
The NYC woman and her family members sued both the lodge and Chapman, and won in Whatcom County Superior Court. Later, the award was overturned by the state Court of Appeals, which said that the woman had to present “specific point-in-time evidence” that the driver seemed drunk when the bartender served him alcohol.
But the Supreme Court disagreed, and on Thursday noted that in statements to others, the bartender admitted the man was too “tipsy” to be driving and that he was so drunk that night that she eventually refused to serve him.
The family’s attorney said the injured boy, now 15, will benefit the most from the ruling.
“His life is now going to make a significant change for the better,” he said. “This family now can take care of their boy the way he’s entitled to be taken care of.”
If you are seriously injured in an accident, or someone you know is injured or possibly even killed, call the experienced Seattle personal injury attorneys at Bernard Law Group at1-800-418-8282. We can help you immediately. All e-mail and form submissions will be responded to by a qualified and knowledgeable member of our firm within 24 hours. Call our toll-free number 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and we promise to respond immediately.