Driving after a night of heavy drinking can be just as dangerous as driving home from the bar itself–a fact that was tragically highlighted by a recent accident in which a drunk driver caused a head-on collision the morning after a night of drinking that left the other car’s driver with a traumatic brain injury. Moreover, the legal liability for accidents such as these does not rest only with the drunk driver himself; bars and restaurants who serve such drivers open themselves up to lawsuits from accident victims, even if the accident did not occur on the driver’s way home.
Following the above-mentioned accident, the victim sued not only the driver himself but also the night club that had served the driver alcohol the night before. After the drunk driver failed to respond to the lawsuit, the court found in the victim’s favor in a default proof hearing. The court then determined the extent of the victim’s damages in a May 3, 2016 hearing. On August 3, the court entered a judgment against the drunk driver for $975,000, which was brought to $1.022 million with pre-judgement interest included.
However, what is particularly notable about this case is that the accident victim settled her claim for $725,000 against the night club that had served the drunk driver. Many states have what are known as “dram shop laws”, which enable the victims of drunk drivers to sue the bar or restaurant that served the driver alcohol. Bartenders and alcohol vendors are typically held to the “obvious intoxication” standard; under this standard, an alcohol vendor can be found responsible for any damages caused by their patrons if they continue to serve alcohol past the point that they either knew or should have known that the customer was intoxicated to a degree that posed a threat to the customer himself or others on the road.
This case is unique because the night club settled with the victim even though the accident occurred many hours after the drunk driver left the establishment, potentially indicating a trend towards interpreting an alcohol vendor’s responsibility even more broadly.