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Bartender Held Liable in DWI Case


Two couples went out on a group dinner date on February 2, 1960. According to a New York Drug Crime Lawyer, after dinner, they drove to a restaurant on Staten Island at around 9:00 p.m. In between the dance numbers, the two couples drank. One lady passed out from having taken too much alcohol. Her date steadily drank double bourbons straight. Her date became drunk and noisy. He fell to the floor and some bystanders told the bartender not to give the obviously drunk man anymore to drink.

The bartender kept giving the man more double bourbons reasoning that the man was just enjoying himself. Later, at 1:00 p.m., the two couples left the restaurant. The lady who passed out was asleep in the passenger seat in front. Her date, the man who passed out after imbibing several double bourbons insisted on driving.

When the car had travelled about nine miles from the restaurant, the lady’s date who was driving while intoxicated lost control of the car which veered off the road and crashed into a building. A New York Drug Possession Lawyer said the driver was killed and his date who was sleeping in the front seat was seriously injured.

She sued the restaurant and the bartender under the Dram Shop Act. The jury found for the lady and on appeal by the bartender and the restaurant, the appellate division affirmed the jury verdict.

A Nassau Count Drug Possession Lawyer said that the Supreme Court is asked to decide if the jury verdict finding the restaurant and the bartender liable for damages for the injuries sustained by the sleeping lady is proper under the statutes.

The Supreme Court first stated that the Alcoholic Beverage Control Law defines it as a crime for any person to sell any alcoholic beverage to a person who is already intoxicated or already under the influence of liquor. This law also recognizes that any person who is injured by the intoxicated person has a right of action against the person who caused or contributed to the intoxication. The injured person is entitled to actual and exemplary damages from the person who caused the intoxication.

A Queens Drug Possession Lawyer said the Court traced the history of this law, stating that in 1873, the law prohibited the injured person from recovering damages from the person who sold alcohol to an intoxicated person who caused the injury if the injured person was also intoxicated.

This is what the restaurant and the bartender contended: they assert that they cannot be found liable for the injury to the lady because the lady herself was drunk at that time. They claim that the lady’s drinking caused or contributed to her date’s intoxication.

The Supreme Court rejected their argument. Just because the lady was also intoxicated did not mean that she caused the intoxication of her date. She cannot be deprived of the right to recover actual and exemplary damages. The Court reasoned that the lady got drunk while drinking with Taylor but she did nothing to encourage him to drink more. She passed out before he got really drunk and fell on the floor. She was asleep, passed out from having drunk too much, at the time that her date kept drinking more and more of the alcohol sold to him by the bartender. Simply drinking with her date who later became intoxicated cannot be viewed as causing the intoxication or contributing to the intoxication of her date. Her own drinking cannot be viewed as a contributory factor to the intoxication of her date. For these reasons, the court upheld and affirmed the jury verdict in favor of the lady.

When facing a civil suit in damages for causing injury to another while driving under the influence of alcohol, can you raise the defense that the bartender who kept selling you alcohol even when you were so obviously intoxicated should also be held jointly liable? Call Stephen Bilkis and Associates and talk to any of their attorneys. They can help explore the possibility of mitigating your liability for damages by giving you a possible defense: you and the person who got injured by you can also run against the bartender who kept selling you drinks.

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