An Atlanta area bar has agreed to pay the surviving widow of a man killed by a drunken driver $1M to settle her claims. The bar’s liability stems from the bar’s staff over-serving the drunken patron, when they should have known that he was highly intoxicated and likely to drive home from the bar. This type of case is known as a dram shop act case.
Our firm has successfully handled many dram shop act cases. Under Georgia law, a bar, restaurant or other establishment which sells liquor to a customer who they know is intoxicate and who they have reason to know will be driving become liable for injury, death, or damage caused by or resulting from the intoxication of such person, including injury or death to other persons. The most common scenario is a bar customer who becomes drunk and shows obvious signs of intoxication, yet the bartender continues to serve him until he finished at the bar and gets into his car. Once in the car and on the road, the drunk driver causes a wreck. Usually, due to the level of intoxication of the at-fault drunk driver, the collision is severe and the resulting injuries are often catastrophic. Many times, the at-fault drunk driver does not have sufficient insurance of assets to fully compensate the victims. In this situation, the bar or restaurant is a potential defendant. The law is outlined in O.C.G.A § 51-1-40 which states, in pertinent part:
O.C.G.A. 51-1-40 (2010)
51-1-40. Liability for acts of intoxicated persons
(a) The General Assembly finds and declares that the consumption of alcoholic beverages, rather than the sale or furnishing or serving of such beverages, is the proximate cause of any injury, including death and property damage, inflicted by an intoxicated person upon himself or upon another person, except as otherwise provided in subsection (b) of this Code section.
(b) A person who sells, furnishes, or serves alcoholic beverages to a person of lawful drinking age shall not thereby become liable for injury, death, or damage caused by or resulting from the intoxication of such person, including injury or death to other persons; provided, however, a person who willfully, knowingly, and unlawfully sells, furnishes, or serves alcoholic beverages to a person who is not of lawful drinking age, knowing that such person will soon be driving a motor vehicle, or who knowingly sells, furnishes, or serves alcoholic beverages to a person who is in a state of noticeable intoxication, knowing that such person will soon be driving a motor vehicle, may become liable for injury or damage caused by or resulting from the intoxication of such minor or person when the sale, furnishing, or serving is the proximate cause of such injury or damage. Nothing contained in this Code section shall authorize the consumer of any alcoholic beverage to recover from the provider of such alcoholic beverage for injuries or damages suffered by the consumer.
(c) In determining whether the sale, furnishing, or serving of alcoholic beverages to a person not of legal drinking age is done willfully, knowingly, and unlawfully as provided in subsection (b) of this Code section, evidence that the person selling, furnishing, or serving alcoholic beverages had been furnished with and acted in reliance on identification as defined in subsection (d) of Code Section 3-3-23 showing that the person to whom the alcoholic beverages were sold, furnished, or served was 21 years of age or older shall constitute rebuttable proof that the alcoholic beverages were not sold, furnished, or served willfully, knowingly, and unlawfully.
(d) No person who owns, leases, or otherwise lawfully occupies a premises, except a premises licensed for the sale of alcoholic beverages, shall be liable to any person who consumes alcoholic beverages on the premises in the absence of and without the consent of the owner, lessee, or lawful occupant or to any other person, or to the estate or survivors of either, for any injury or death suffered on or off the premises, including damage to property, caused by the intoxication of the person who consumed the alcoholic beverages.
Robert J. Fleming has been handling wrongful death cases, dental malpractice, bus accidents, car accident cases and premises injury cases for individuals and families who have been harmed, injured or died as a result of the carelessness or negligence of another for more than 20 years. He practices in and around the Atlanta area including handling lawsuits in Fulton, DeKalb, Clayton, Gwinnett, Cobb and other counties and nearby cities including Alpharetta, Austell, Avondale Estates, Chamblee, College Park, Conyers, Duluth, Decatur, Doraville, Hapeville, Johns Creek, Jonesboro, Lawrenceville, Norcross, Peachtree City, Riverdale, Roswell, Sandy Springs, Stone Mountain, and Smyrna. If you have been seriously injured in a car accident and would like quality legal representation, contact Robert J. Fleming directly on (404) 525-5150 or contact us online.