When an innocent person is killed by a drunk driver in a car accident, who is to blame?
The drunk driver, of course. But what about the bar that served him up those extra drinks after he was already clearly drunk?
30 years ago, states started recognizing dram shop liability. Dram shop liability basically holds bars, and other commercial establishments that serve alcohol, accountable for patrons they served after their customers were clearly intoxicated, when the customers them cause harm to others. For example, when a drunk driver harms an innocent family by hitting their car. Dram shop liability would hold the bar responsible for continuing to serve the driver after he was displaying signs of being inebriated instead of cutting him off.
Essentially, dram shop liability encourages bars and restaurants to watch out for their customers and community by recognizing when their customers have had too much to drink and cut them off before they can become a danger to themselves or those around them.
Today, all states, except 4, recognize dram shop liability. Maryland is one of the four.
Fortunately, the Center for Constitutional Litigation (CCL) is currently appealing whether Maryland courts will recognize dram shop liability. They’re appealing based on a case involving a man who drove his car into a family’s car, killing one person and injuring three others. This man pled guilty to vehicular manslaughter – he drank more than 20 alcoholic drinks at the Dogfish Head Ale House and displayed behavior indicating that he was under the influence of alcohol before leaving the bar.
The fact that the driver is responsible is clear, but the responsibility of the Ale House should be not to serve a clearly drunk (20 drinks) customer. It’s foreseeable that someone that drunk will hurt himself and others – that’s just common sense.
In recognizing dram shop liability, the Maryland Court of Appeals will further the interests of victims, ensuring they are properly compensated, and will deter incidents like this from happening again, keeping all drivers, pedestrians and patrons safer.