New York General Obligations Title 1 – 11.100 holds that when a person is injured or killed as a result of intoxication by a person under 21, that individual can seek compensation from the person or entity who provided the alcohol.
This is called a “dram shop law,” and it’s one of the ways victims of drunk driving in New York City can pursue justice through the civil court system. Dram shop laws vary from state-to-state, and some are expanded to include service of alcohol to persons who are visibly intoxicated or habitually addicted to alcohol.
Manhattan drunk driving accident lawyers note the Indiana Court of Appeals recently sided with a plaintiff pursuing litigation against a professional sports stadium alcohol vendor, after a patron who earlier attended a game struck two 12-year-old pedestrians, killing one and seriously injuring another.
The ruling could have an impact on the way professional sports stadium vendors do business. This particular defendant operates as an exclusive provider of spirits in stadiums across the country and even a few internationally.
This case in some ways mirrors the 2006 lawsuit in which the beer concession provider for the New York Giants Stadium was found liable for damages caused when a drunken football fan involved in a crash resulting in permanent paralysis of a 2-year-old girl. Believed to be the largest liquor liability verdict in the country, the New Jersey jury ordered the beer vendor to pay $75 million in punitive damages and $40 million in compensatory damages. The remaining $30 million was ordered paid by the drunk driver.
Despite the large amount of damages awarded in that case, this is not to say such cases are straightforward. In fact, litigation against vendors may be complicated because of the difficulty in identifying the virtually anonymous patrons, but also those who are distributing the drinks.
This was one of the major issues in the Pierson case. The defendant asserted it couldn’t be held liable because, despite an intensive investigation, the volunteer(s) who sold the alcohol to the patron could not be identified.
A trial court judge granted the defense motion for summary judgment on the basis that there was no evidence an employee of the firm had served alcohol to the patron while he was visibly intoxicated, and further no evidence that alcohol provided by an employee was a proximate cause of the crash. (There was testimony the patron had consumed alcohol both before and after the game during tailgate parties.)
However, the appellate court reversed, finding genuine issues of material fact regarding liability. Specifically, the court sided with the plaintiff’s argument that reasonable inferences could be made, based on the level of the driver’s intoxication and the fact that the defendant was the only alcohol vendor at the stadium, that alcohol was served to the patron while he was visibly intoxicated.
The court didn’t rule necessarily that was the case, only that the argument is reasonable and may be presented to a jury.
The Law Offices of Nicholas Rose, PLLC offers free consultations. Call 1-877-313-7673.
Pierson v. Service America Corp., May 21, 2014, Indiana Court of Appeals
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