Suing a Bar for Over Serving. $301 Billion Awarded to Family of Drunk Driving Victims.
They say everything is bigger in Texas, including jury verdicts. In December 2021, a family suing a bar for over serving, in Corpus Christi awarded by the jury a jaw-dropping $301 billion to the family of two drunk driving victims.
Here were the facts as reported: In November 2017, 16-year old Aujuni Anderson completed her shift at CiCi’s Pizza, where she worked on weekends. Her grandmother, Tamra Kindred, picked her up from work and began driving home.
They never made it. As they traveled through an intersection, a drunk driver sped through a red light and smashed into their car, killing them both. The drunk driver, Joshua Delbosque, was also killed in the crash. His blood alcohol level was later determined to be .263, more than triple the legal limit in Texas.
The family sued Beer Belly’s Sports Bar and its owner, claiming negligence because Delbosque had been “overserved” by the bar even after he was visibly intoxicated. The jury heard evidence that Texas law, as described by the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission, “requires alcohol retailers to cut off customers who show signs of intoxication“.
Can Bars Face Financial and Legal Consequences Causing Personal Injury or Loss of Life?
Those who violate the law could face financial and legal consequences if their actions contribute to the loss of life.” Beer Belly’s was out of business by the time the trial occurred, and the plaintiffs knew that the bar and its owners would not have the ability to pay any significant court judgment. But the family wanted the jury to send a loud message about the dangers of drunk driving and the responsibility of bar owners to help prevent it.
The jury heard evidence that the previous largest civil judgment in American history was $150 billion, so they decided to double that amount and add an extra billion for good measure.
Consider the message delivered, loud and clear, even if Beer Belly’s is unable to pay any part of the judgment. But is the Texas law as described a good policy? Should bars and restaurants be held liable if someone gets drunk (or drunker) while drinking there, drives away in a car, and injures or kills an innocent victim? If so, what should the standard be?
What About Louisiana?
Louisiana, parts of which have long been known for their drive-through daiquiri stores and “go-cups,” takes a different approach than Texas does. Louisiana law does make the over serving of alcohol to an intoxicated person unlawful from a licensing standpoint, and a bar or restaurant who does that could face fines or penalties related to its license.
But from a civil damages liability standpoint, a bar or restaurant has statutory immunity from most claims arising from accidents caused by intoxicated patrons after they leave the premises. Louisiana’s public policy is that the responsibility for such accidents is on the person who decided to get intoxicated and drive home.
Louisiana law does contain limited exceptions to the immunity rule, the most significant of which involves the sale or serving of alcohol to someone below the legal age to purchase it. In that circumstance the bar or restaurant isn’t automatically responsible for damages depending on the circumstances of the case, but they will have to defend the reasonableness of their conduct and may be exposed to liability.
One other interesting exception to the immunity rule: Louisiana also has a number of floating casinos in its lakes, rivers and waterways that sell and serve alcohol. If someone gets drunk on a navigable waterway and later causes an accident—even if the intoxicated person is of legal age—federal maritime law could apply rather than the Louisiana immunity statute, and an injured victim could have a negligence claim against the alcohol provider.
This is a complex area that pits the rights of those who operate lawful drinking establishments with the rights of those injured or killed by the scourge of drunk driving. Legal rights and responsibilities in this area are determined state by state, and Louisiana law (as always) is unique in many ways.
Do You Have a Case for Suing a Bar for Over Serving?
The particular facts of your case or your issue are always the most important variable. Scandurro & Layrisson has successfully taken cases to trial against drunk drivers and has also represented bar owners and operators. We are experienced in the legal, insurance and technical issues these cases present.
Contact Us for a free consultation.