A Night Out Turns Lethal – – Whose Fault?

There’s an old joke which involves a young man who shoots his parents; when he is standing before the court, about to be sentenced for murder, he asks the judge to be lenient with him since he is an orphan.

  Somewhat akin to that is the lawsuit of the estate of a young woman against the owner of a bar in Philadelphia (Schuenemann v. Dreemz).  The woman left the bar, drove her car into a pole on Delaware Avenue, and was killed.

  Her estate alleged that her extremely high blood level of 0.224%, nearly three times the legal limit of 0.08%, was the result of the bar’s serving her when she was clearly heavily under the influence.

The litigation involving bars are called “dram shop cases.”  (Dram Shop is an 18th Century English term for barroom).  The law imposes a strict duty upon owners not to serve patrons who are visibly intoxicated.  The evidence in this case was that the decedent had been drinking through a long night; she was “loud and a little obnoxious,” but still the bar served her.

  As it happened, although she entered the bar and drank excessively all night voluntarily, her estate was awarded $1,900,000.  You may question the morality of such a verdict as rewarding a self-inflicted tragedy; but for the decedent to have been served to such an extent, it was determined that the servers were guilty of egregious behavior.  As the night wore on, inevitably the decedent became less and less able to know when to stop.

  So, beware all of you dram shop owners, even though some people can “hold their liquor” when they are deeply under the influence.  If a patron is deceptively well-behaved, the bar owner must exert extra care and at some point say, “no more.”

—  Ken Butera



Posted in Restaurant / Liquor License  |  Leave a comment

Leave a thought...