Dram Shop Rule Results in Jury Awarding $6.2 Million
How many times have you been out for dinner or drinks and you notice that someone in the restaurant or bar has had too much alcohol? Think for a moment if that person were to leave and cause a motor vehicle accident that severely injures someone or even kills. Who is responsible? The Bartender? The restaurant? Let’s take a look at the idea of the “Dram Shop Rule”.
Dram Shop Rule – n. a statute (Dram Shop Act) or case law in 38 states which makes a business which sells alcoholic drinks or a host who serves liquor to a drinker who is obviously intoxicated or close to it, strictly liable to anyone injured by the drunken patron or guest.
Alysoun Sherwood, age 48, was driving northbound on a two0lane road when a southbound motorist Michael Coyle, who was driving while intoxicated, crossed the centerline. Sherwood pulled onto the shoulder and stopped as Coyle’s vehicle approached. , but his car struck Sherwood’s head on.
The impact from Coyle’s vehicle was so great that Sherwood had to be extricated from her car via the “Jaws of Life”. She sustained multiple injuries, including an open, comminuted fracture of the right knee; fractures to both wrists, both ankles as well as her left foot; a displaced fracture of the sternum; a rib fracture resulting in bilateral collapsed lungs; and lacerations to her liver.
Sherwood underwent open reduction internal fixation of both wrists, her left ankle, and her right knee. The knee injury also required debridement, irrigation, and application of a wound-healing vacuum. After nearly two weeks of inpatient rehabilitation therapy, she underwent a second surgery to her right wrist. She required an additional 10 weeks of inpatient rehabilitation therapy. Her past medical expenses were paid by insurance.
Sherwood continues to suffer pain and reduced range of motion in both wrists, both ankles, and her right knee. She has difficulty climbing stairs or walking distances, and she was forced to give up some of her favorite hobbies, including kayaking and gardening as a result.
Following the collision, Coyle was arrested and pleaded guilty to DUI. At that time, he reportedly admitted to having had 13 beers and seven shots of whiskey at a restaurant that he had just left.
Sherwood sued Coyle, alleging that he was negligent in driving while intoxicated and crossing the centerline.
Sherwood also sued the restaurant and pub where Coyle was drinking on the afternoon of the collision, alleging that it was liable under the state “Dram Shop Act” because it had served Coyle numerous drinks and continued to serve him after he was obviously intoxicated. The plaintiff contended that Coyle arrived at the restaurant around lunchtime or early afternoon and remained there until just minutes before the late-afternoon collision. The plaintiff did not pursue claims for medical expenses or other economic damages
The restaurant’s bartender that served Coyle testified that Coyle was only there for about an hour and appeared sober when he left. The defense also presented deposition testimony from another witness, who stated that before the crash, Coyle had snorted an opioid at a party and appeared angry when he left.
Before trial, the plaintiff demanded $1.1 million to settle, including the restaurants$1 million dollar policy limits and Coyle’s $100,000 policy limits. The defendants offered $500,000, which the plaintiffs rejected.
The jury allocated fault at 70 percent to Coyle and 30 percent to the restaurant. The jury then awarded $6.2 million, including $3.2 million for future pain and suffering and $3 million for past pain and suffering. It has been reported that the restaurant plans to file a motion to set aside the verdict.
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