Third Party Liability In Alcohol-Related Wrecks
In December 2021, a Texas jury made headlines when it ordered a sports bar to pay $300 billion in punitive damages following an alcohol-related wreck that killed two people. The staff at Beer Belly’s, a Corpus Christi bar that had lost its liquor license in 2019, allegedly overserved the driver to the point that his BAC was over three times the legal limit when he left the bar. That’s obviously an extreme example, but it highlights the fact that commercial alcohol providers are vicariously liable for damages in many cases.
Ohio’s dram shop law, which is outlined below, is very similar to the Texas law. So, if a bar or restaurant in the Buckeye State overserves a person or otherwise illegally sells alcohol to a person who causes a wreck, a Columbus personal injury lawyer can force that commercial provider to pay compensation. This compensation usually includes money for economic losses, such as medical bills, and noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering. Punitive damages are only available in extreme circumstances.
Commercial Alcohol Provider Liability
In Ohio and Texas, and most other states, commercial providers are vicariously liable for damages if they knowingly serve intoxicated people who later cause wrecks or otherwise injure another person, perhaps in a drunken fight.
Evidence of intoxication at the point of sale usually includes physical symptoms, such as bloodshot eyes and unsteady balance. Other evidence includes the tortfeasor’s (negligent driver’s) previous alcohol purchases during that visit and the tortfeasor’s statements to bartenders and other witnesses.
It’s also illegal to sell alcohol to underage patrons. Traditional defenses, like the old “s/he looked older” defense, usually don’t hold up in court. Other illegal sales include unlicensed sales and before or after-hours sales.
Additionally, a Columbus personal injury lawyer must prove that the car wreck or other injury was a foreseeable (possible) injury. Usually, someone at the restaurant must know or suspect that the tortfeasor will be driving home.
Dram shop liability usually stops at the bar or restaurant. The building’s owner or the restaurant’s landlord is immune from liability, at least in most cases.
Noncommercial Alcohol Provider Liability
Section 4399.18 usually only applies to commercial providers. Noncommercial providers, like party hosts, may also be vicariously liable for damages. However, these claims are somewhat more complex, because they involve the negligent undertaking doctrine.
Assume Phil is hosting a New Years Eve party, He places a bowl at the door where guests are supposed to leave their car keys. He also says he will pay for Ubers if guests are intoxicated when they leave. However, he doesn’t strictly enforce the policy and doesn’t follow through on that promise.
If Amy is intoxicated when she leaves Phil’s party and she causes a crash, Phil might be vicariously liable for damages.
Special rules apply if Phil served minors or if he gave minors easy access to alcohol, and one of these minors caused a wreck. Since Phil was especially reckless, it’s easier to prove negligent undertaking.
Reach Out to a Dedicated Franklin County Lawyer
Injury victims are entitled to substantial compensation. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury attorney in Columbus, contact the Oliver Law Office. We do not charge upfront legal fees in these matters.