Dram Shop Liability in Washington, D.C.

When a driver drinks too much and then gets behind the wheel, they put everyone on the road at risk. It is common knowledge that anyone injured in a Washington, D.C. drunk driving accident can seek compensation for their injuries from the drunk driver. However, what is less known is that a bar, club, or restaurant that over-serves a customer to the point of intoxication may also be held liable in some circumstances. This is known as Dram Shop liability.

In most states that permit Dram Shop cases, there is a specific statute that allows victims to proceed against the serving establishment. However, there is no such statute in Washington, D.C. That being said, Washington, D.C. courts have routinely upheld a plaintiff’s right to seek compensation in Dram Shop cases based on D.C. Code Annotated section 25-781, which prohibits the sale of alcohol to anyone who is intoxicated, appears to be intoxicated, or is known to have a drinking problem. Importantly, Maryland courts have routinely rejected the theory of Dram Shop liability. Thus, Maryland drunk driving victims can hold the serving establishment liable for injuries caused by a drunk driver.

A recent appellate court decision out of Florida illustrates how Dram Shop liability can help an injured plaintiff seek the compensation they deserve.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was a surviving family member of a woman who was killed in a drunk driving accident. The driver who caused the accident had just come from a country club, where he played a round of golf and then had a few drinks. At the time of the accident, the driver’s blood-alcohol content was over. 30, which is nearly four times the legal limit of .08.

The plaintiff filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the country club, citing the state’s Dram Shop law. Florida’s Dram Shop law is slightly more restrictive than Washington, D.C.’s and only allows liability when the plaintiff can show that the serving establishment provided alcohol to a patron who was known to be “habitually addicted to alcohol.”

The trial court dismissed the plaintiff’s case, explaining that the plaintiff provided no evidence that the country club knew whether the driver was addicted to alcohol. However, on appeal, that decision was reversed. In reversing the decision, the appellate court looked at the evidence presented at trial suggesting that the driver had been to the country club 70 to 80 times over the past three years, and each time he consumed at least five strongly poured alcoholic drinks. This, the court held, was sufficient evidence that the country club and its employees may have known about the driver’s addiction to alcohol. Thus, the case was reversed in favor of the plaintiff.

Have You Been Injured in a Maryland or Washington, D.C. Drunk Driving Accident?

If you or a loved one has recently been injured in a Washington, D.C. drunk driving accident, there may be more than one party responsible for your injuries. And by naming multiple defendants, you will increase the chance of being fully compensated for your injuries. The skilled Maryland and Washington, D.C. personal injury attorneys at the law firm of Lebowitz & Mzhen Personal Injury Lawyers have extensive experience helping the victims of drunk driving accidents recover fully and fairly for their injuries. Call 410-654-3600 to schedule a free consultation with an experienced attorney today.

More Blog Posts:

NTSB Issues Report Regarding Last Year’s Fatal Auto-Pilot Crash, Maryland Car Accident Attorney Blog, published June 23, 2017.

Court Allows Evidence of “Other Similar Incidents” in Recent Product Liability Car Accident Case, Maryland Car Accident Attorney Blog, published July 11, 2017.

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