The First District Court of Appeal recently issued an opinion addressing the apportionment of liability stemming from a Florida pedestrian accident. According to the court’s opinion, the underage driver worked at a bar where he received a 50% discount on drinks. After drinking at his place of employment, he drove drunk and proceeded to hit a pedestrian. The pedestrian, who was also underage, was served alcohol at a different bar. The pedestrian filed a lawsuit against both bars to recover damages for her injuries. On appeal, the bar employing the driver argued that they should have asserted a comparative fault defense. The plaintiff asserts that the claim falls under the state’s Dram Shop statute, and therefore the law does not entitle the defendant to this defense.
Florida’s comparative law statute provides that a claimant’s contributory fault reduces their compensation based on their level of fault. However, the law applies to negligence actions, not intentional torts. In this case, the plaintiff cites the state’s Dram Shop statute, which provides that an establishment that sells or provides alcohol to a person will be liable for any injuries or damages resulting from the intoxicated person. The Court reasoned that the dram shop statute does not create a new cause of action; therefore, it does not transform the existing action into an intentional tort.
In light of the finding, the defendant purported to use the “alcohol defense” to thwart liability for the driver’s action. Under the defense, a plaintiff may not recover for damages if: