When an accident occurs involving drunk driving, many people do not know that the party that served the alcohol to the intoxicated person may be held liable for their negligence in serving the intoxicated party. However, there are exceptions. These exceptions typically occur when the chain of events does not show a direct link of causation between the consumption of alcohol and subsequent accident or injury. If there are intervening causes or an event occurs that breaks the chain of causation, the party who furnished the alcohol to the intoxicated party who caused the accident may not be liable.
In a recent court opinion, questions concerning the scope of a liquor licensee’s liability for injuries its patron caused after a night of drinking came under consideration. The day before the accident occurred, a man had worked a twelve-hour shift at his warehouse job. After finishing his shift, he headed to a family wedding reception, where he had some beer. After, he went out with a group of friends to a club owned by the defendant. On the way to the club, the man stopped at a convenience store and purchased a twenty-four-ounce container of beer, which he consumed while driving to the club. After several drinks at the club, the man and his group headed home for the night at around 2am and fell asleep.
At around 5am, the man got up to drive some friends home when he crashed his pickup truck into a car stopped at a red light, killing both of the car’s occupants. He was arrested at the scene and convicted of two counts of manslaughter and sentenced to 14 years in prison. The family members of those killed in the DUI accident filed a lawsuit, asserting dram shop liability against the club.
On appeal, the court examined the state’s dram shop laws. In order to recover under the statute, a plaintiff had to show that the licensee sold alcohol to an obviously intoxicated person and that the consumption of liquor was the proximate cause of the plaintiff’s injury. Ultimately, the court sided with the defendant, stating that causation had not been successfully established. Had the accident occurred as the at-fault party was driving himself home from the bar at 2am, the result would have been different. However, because the man had arrived at home safely, the risk of him deciding to leave home and take to the roads at a later time is no different than if he had become inebriated at home through alcohol purchased from a local store.
Similarly, in Indiana, dram shop laws state that the person who supplies alcohol to the person who causes the injury is liable only if two elements are met:
- The party who provided the alcohol knew that the intoxicated individual was truly intoxicated; and
- The state of intoxication was a foreseeable cause of the injury.
Dram shop laws can be complicated and challenging to navigate following an accident. For this reason, potential plaintiffs are advised to contact an experienced Indiana personal injury attorney who can navigate their claims with ease.
Have You Been Injured in an Indiana Drunk Driving Accident?
If you or someone you know has been injured in an Indiana drunk driving accident that could potentially involve state dram shop laws, contact the personal injury attorneys at Parr Richey Frandsen Patterson Kruse today. Our team of lawyers has worked with all kinds of clients to get the compensation that they deserve following an accident. To learn more and schedule a free consultation, contact us at 888-532-7766.