Archive for the ‘Dram SHop Liability Cases’ Category

Understanding Liability of Bars for Mississippi Drunk Driving Accidents

Friday, May 13th, 2011

Most states including Mississippi have dram shop laws that provide limited immunity from liability for auto accidents caused by patrons of bars and restaurants.  Some states also impose liability under similar circumstances on social hosts, but Mississippi is not one of those states.  These laws also impose liability in particular circumstances on those who furnish alcohol to drivers who are subsequently involved in drunk driving accidents.  The Mississippi dram shop law imposes liability on bars, restaurants and other businesses that serve alcohol to drivers who are visibly intoxicated or underage.  A recent Mississippi appellate case Robinson Prop. Group, Ltd. P’ship v. McCalman, 2011 Miss. LEXIS 19 (Miss. Jan. 13, 2011) provides insight into the complex factual inquiry that may be involved under the Mississippi dram shop law.

In McCalman, the defendant was a casino in wrongful death lawsuit brought on behalf of two passengers in a car that died when a drunk driver struck the car. The trial court held that the casino was liable because the drunk driver had been served alcohol at the casino before the car accident.  The appellate court analyzed the trial court’s imposition of liability on the casino under Mississippi’s Dram Shop Act, Miss. Code Ann. 67-3-73(4) (2005) that required proof that it served alcohol to the driver when he was visibly intoxicated.

Although the casino presented evidence that it had trained personnel who would have detected the driver’s intoxication, the casino was busy before the driver left the casino.  The heirs’ of the Mississippi wrongful death victim provided testimony from an expert witness who offered an opinion that the driver’s blood alcohol content was high enough that trained personnel should have spotted his intoxication.  The casino’s expert also acknowledged that the driver would have been intoxicated within the half-hour after he left the casino.

Mississippi’s statute commonly called the Dram Shop Act, according to its title, provides immunity from liability of persons who lawfully furnished or sold intoxicating beverages to one causing damage.  The statute includes the exception that the limitation of liability provided by this section shall not apply to any holder of an alcoholic beverage, beer or light wine permit, or any agent or employee of such holder when it is shown that the person making a purchase of an alcoholic beverage was at the time of such purchase visibly intoxicated. Miss. Code Ann. 67-3-73(4) (2005), Robinson Prop. Group, Ltd. P’ship v. McCalman, 2011 Miss. LEXIS 19 (Miss. Jan. 13, 2011).

In McCalman, the driver was visibly intoxicated when the alcohol was purchased so liability against the casino was imposed under Mississippi’s dram shop act. For bar owners, this means that serving alcohol to a drunken person who then drives will expose the bar to negligence damages if there is in a Mississippi car accident resulting in injuries or wrongful death.  This case also reveals that the specific facts of the case are important in establishing that the driver whose intoxication causes a Mississippi accident was “visibly intoxicated.”  Both sides in this case employed expert testimony, which is common in dram shop cases.  Other evidence that may establish that a drunk driver was served when visibly intoxicated includes testimony of serving staff, surveillance video footage, credit card statements or bar receipts and other similar evidence.

If you or a loved one is injured or you have suffered the loss of a loved one to a drunk driver in Mississippi, you may be entitled to compensation for your injuries or loss.  The compassionate and dedicated attorneys at Barrett Law PLLC represent victims of Mississippi drunk driving accidents throughout the state.  Our law firm roots date back over 75 years in representing those who are injured or killed by the negligence of others.  A Mississippi accident attorney from our law firm can provide a free initial case evaluation when you call (662) 834-2376.

Imposing Liability on Those Who Facilitate Drunk Driving

Thursday, April 14th, 2011

Mississippi currently has no dram shop statute on its books.  Dram shop laws in other states impose civil liability on commercial establishments, such as a bar or restaurant, that serve alcohol to patrons that then go out and injure an innocent person in a car accident as a result of the driver’s intoxication.

Mississippi does not have a “Dram Shop Act”, but does have a statute that imposes criminal penalties upon violators.  If a vendor violates the statute, the violation can provide a basis for civil liability as well. The statute prohibits individuals or entities from selling or furnishing alcoholic beverages to people who are visibly intoxicated, under age, insane or mentally defective, known alcoholics and known drug addicts.  Any person or entity that violates this statute may be criminally guilty of a misdemeanor and punished by a fine of up to $500 and/or six months in jail. The alcohol permit of the business may be revoked and the establishment may be sued.

The mere service of alcohol by the bar is not enough to render it liable in Mississippi. The state requires a showing that the intoxicated person who injured the third party actually consumed the alcoholic beverages since it is his consumption of the alcohol, not the sale, serving or furnishing of the alcohol that is the cause of the alleged injury.

In 2005, there was a case in Jones County, Mississippi against a Mississippi restaurant where the jury returned a multi-million dollar verdict against the restaurant. The business served a drunk driver who caused an accident, and the business had to pay almost 90% of the award.  Substantial civil judgement in cases like this have shown that when an entity knows that they could be at risk for civil liability they tend to become more diligent, responsible and lawful about how they serve their patrons.

The proprietor of a bar or restaurant can follow a few guidelines to help reduce the risk of having liability imposed for a drunk driving accident:

  • Do not serve patrons who appear to be visibly intoxicated.
  • Do not serve patrons who habitually drink to excess.
  • Do not serve patrons you know to have alcohol or drug addictions.
  • Do not serve patrons you know to be insane.
  • Make sure that every patron is 21 years old.

In a recent case, the Mississippi Supreme Court just upheld a verdict against a casino who continued to serve a man who was gambling while drinking about 2-3 beers an hour over the course of 16 hours.  When the man left the casino speeding at 90 mph, he smashed into another car killing both of the occupants. His blood alcohol level was .16, which is twice the legal limit in Mississippi.  The families of the occupants of the other car filed a wrongful death suit against the drunk driver and the casino. The casino argued that the man was not “visibly intoxicated” when he was being served. The jury found in favor of the two families.

This verdict re-established Mississippi’s position that businesses that serve visibly intoxicated customers will be responsible if that customer causes injury or death.  Even though Mississippi does not have a Dram Shop Act per se like other states, a Mississippi court will still hold the establishment that serves alcohol to certain individuals that are likely to cause a drunk driving accident accountable on both a criminal and a civil basis.  It is always worth taking a case for personal injury under these circumstances to hold the participating parties accountable.

If you or a loved one have been injured by a drunk driver, please contact one of our experienced Mississippi drunk driving accident lawyers to discuss whether you may have a claim against the alcohol provider as well as the drunk driver.  Our Mississippi auto accident attorneys help clients just like you obtain the settlement or judgment that they deserve. We provide relief from the headaches of dealing with insurance companies so that our clients can focus on their recovery and their family.  The personal injury attorneys here at the Barrett Law Office in Mississippi can help. Please contact us today for your free no obligation consultation. We will answer your questions and help you during this stressful time.