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Christopher Simon Attorney at Law has successfully pursued a number of Atlanta bars for over-serving drunk drivers who later caused serious crashes. The firm is proud to have closed these bars down using the State’s Dram Shop laws. O.C.G.A. § 51-1-40
In Georgia, our legislature enacted a specific law that says that where a bar:
there is civil responsibility (legal liability).
This is harder to prove that most think and while it is relatively easy to show that someone would have exhibited signs of intoxication based on their blood alcohol level, the real fight begins in proving the establishment’s knowledge that the drinker will soon be driving.
Relevant evidence includes:
Estate of Eddie Ko v. ABC Corporation:
Policy limits payout of $1,000,000 where two customers of the Korean restaurant left at 3:00 AM after being served 6 bottles of Soju. Witnesses testified the customers came in already having had 10 drinks apiece. They arrived in two separate cars and the cars struck each other prior to crossing into oncoming traffic and killing the innocent victim.
Doe Family v. Lost Dog Tavern in Conyers
Three family members severely injured by a drunk driver. Proved in discovery that the bar had actual knowledge of other customers getting pulled for DUI after leaving their parking lot. Showed that the bartender and bouncer could see the parking lot to note how their customers arrived. Settled for a confidential amount after depositions showed that there was no TIPS training for the bartenders.
A civil suit for the wrongful death of an innocent driver hit by a man who got drunk at a house party. Discovery showed that the host cut the man off once it became apparent that he was drunk. The trial court threw the case out of court on summary judgment finding there was no evidence of the first prong; serving someone who was visibly intoxicated. The Court of Appeals affirmed.
In this case, the Georgia Supreme Court held that a convenience store that sold closed beer to a visibly drunk person can be sued for providing alcohol to a visibly intoxicated person. Whether it’s fair to require the store owner to determine whether the buyer will drink it is still a question for the jury to resolve but if the driver is already clearly drunk, pulls up to the store and buys beer and goes back to his car, no jury would have trouble finding legal responsibility.
Dram Shop cases are complex and involve issues far removed from typical car accident cases. In serious crashes, it makes sense to consult with a lawyer who knows the law in this field.