The Supreme Court of Massachusetts recently released an opinion affirming a district court’s ruling that a plaintiffs’ lawsuit against a restaurant regarding the DUI-related death of their family member could proceed. The defendant had argued that the plaintiffs submitted an insufficient affidavit to make a claim against a provider of alcoholic beverages, but both courts disagreed with the defendant’s arguments, and the case will continue to be heard.
Plaintiffs’ Family Member Dies after Allegedly Being Served an Excessive Amount of Alcohol by the Defendant
According to the plaintiffs’ complaint, their family member died in a single-car DUI accident after he had spent hours at a restaurant and bar operated by the defendant. The plaintiffs claim that an employee of the defendant repeatedly served the driver alcoholic beverages, knowing that he was extremely intoxicated and that he would be driving home. The claim, made under a state law known as the Dram Shop Act, is allowed against third parties who knowingly serve alcohol to a visibly intoxicated patron who later causes an injury or death while driving drunk. Several states have various forms of dram shop laws, which have been enacted to discourage dangerous serving practices at restaurants and bars across the country.
The Defendant’s Request to Dismiss the Case Is Rejected
Once the plaintiffs’ case was filed, the defendants asked the court to dismiss it, arguing that an affidavit attached to a Dram Shop Act claim must be based on personal knowledge rather than simply information and belief. Both the district court and the Massachusetts Supreme Court ruled that an affidavit based on knowledge and belief is sufficient to prevent the claim from being dismissed, and any irregularities or discrepancies in the facts can be decided by a judge or jury at a later point in the case. Based on the rulings, the plaintiffs’ claim will be allowed to proceed toward a trial or settlement.
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