Under Pennsylvania law, a business that provides alcohol to someone who is clearly intoxicated can be held legally responsible for damage that person causes. This applies when a bar or restaurant serves alcohol to a visibly intoxicated patron, and that patron then causes a drunk driving accident. The victims of such crashes may have the right to sue the bar or restaurant that served the driver.
In a recent and unusual case, a man who suffered permanent injuries after driving drunk and crashing his car sued the two bars that served him that night.
The case has now been settled for $6.6 million.
In May 2010, the man consumed alcohol at two bars in Northeastern Pennsylvania before crashing his car into a tree – the car accident left him as a quadriplegic.
The man sued the two bars after the car accident, claiming that he drove drunk after poorly trained bartenders served him free drinks and even promised to drive him home.
According to a news report, the man went to the first bar with teammates following a softball game. The bartender was his friend, and she gave him and his teammates free drinks. At one point, the man says he told the bartender he should switch to water, but she told him that he could keep drinking because she would drive him home.
Later, the bartender and the man went to a second bar, where he had a couple more beers. The man ended up falling asleep at that bar, and when he woke up he did not know where his friends went. His car keys were on a table, and he decided to drive home.
He ended up crashing into a tree and fracturing his neck. He now requires 24-hour care, and it has been estimated that this will cost $34 million over his lifetime.
If the case had gone to trial, the bars could not have been held liable if the jury thought the man was more than 50 percent responsible for his actions.
Source: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, “Two bars settle for $6.6M in DUI case,” Gina Passarella, Dec. 16, 2013