In an effort to curb the increasing number of Florida drunk driving accidents, Florida lawmakers have passed a law that allows for the victims of a drunk driving accident to hold the person who sold alcohol to the intoxicated person liable for their injuries. The law, called the Dram Shop Law, is actually an old vestige of the Temperance Movement from back in the early 19th century.
Under Florida’s Dram Shop Law, contained in Florida Statutes section 768.125, anyone who serves alcohol “willfully and unlawfully” to either a minor or a person who is “habitually addicted to the use of any or all alcoholic beverages” can be held liable. Florida’s Dram Shop Law is more limited than other states’, many of which provide for liability when someone serves a visibly intoxicated person.
A recent case illustrates how courts apply Dram Shop Laws, as well as the quantum of evidence that must be presented in order for a plaintiff to successfully establish liability.
The Facts of the Case
The plaintiff was driving with her two children as passengers when a driver rear-ended their vehicle, causing all three to sustain serious injuries. When police arrived on the scene, the other driver admitted that she was “buzzed.”
As it turned out, the driver was coming from a work function that was held at a local bar, where she consumed three beers over the course of four hours. Evidence showed that all three beers were served by the same bartender and that the group with whom the plaintiff was drinking also ordered and shared a few appetizers. The driver spent a total of about four hours at the bar before leaving.
The plaintiff filed a personal injury case against the bar, arguing that under the state’s Dram Shop Law, it should be liable for the injuries caused by the intoxicated driver. The trial court granted the defendant’s motion for summary judgement, and the plaintiff appealed.
The Court’s Analysis
On appeal, the court first considered the wording of the state’s Dram Shop Law, noting that liability is appropriate when the establishment “knew or should have known the person was intoxicated, or who sold to and served the person to a point where [the establishment] knew or should have known the person would become intoxicated.”
Here, the court noted that the plaintiff presented sufficient evidence to give rise to a material dispute of fact as to whether the bar should have been on notice that the woman was intoxicated. The court looked at the arresting officer’s observations of the woman, noting that she did appear to be intoxicated. Additionally, the court explained that a jury would be free to disbelieve the woman’s testimony that she consumed just three beers, since her blood alcohol content was nearly twice the legal limit.
Importantly, the court’s decision did not go as far as to enter final judgment in favor of the plaintiff. It only held that a material dispute of fact existed regarding the defendant bar’s knowledge and held that a jury should make the ultimate determination.
Have You Been Injured in a Florida Drunk Driving Accident?
If you or a loved one has recently been injured in a Florida drunk driving accident, you may be entitled to monetary compensation. The dedicated Florida personal injury lawyers at the law firm of Friedman, Rodman & Frank have extensive experience representing the victims of Florida drunk driving accidents. To learn more, call 877-448-8585 to schedule your free consultation today.
More Blog Posts:
Verdict in Favor of Patient Reversed by Court Due to Patient’s Failure to Prove Causation, South Florida Personal Injury Lawyers Blog, published April 19, 2017.
Accident Victims Should Not Be Pressured to Accept Settlement Offers by Pushy Florida Insurance Adjusters, South Florida Personal Injury Lawyers Blog, published April 5, 2018.