A civil lawsuit filed by the family of one of three youths killed in a deadly DUI accident in Anderson late last year names not only the alleged drunk driver, but also the establishment that reportedly served him alcohol.
The 17-year-old crash victim was killed in the November 2014 wreck, along with a 22-year-old man from Greenville and a 20-year-old woman from Iva. Additionally, the 12-year-old sister of the 17-year-old decedent was critically injured.
The families of the other victims have also joined the lawsuit, which alleges at least two bars served alcohol to the suspect driver in the hours before the fatal crash. Relying on the Dram Shop law, plaintiffs alleged the bars violated state law when they served alcohol to a person who was clearly intoxicated.
According to authorities, the driver, a 24-year-old assistant baseball coach at Anderson University, was impaired when he killed the three youths in a head-on collision on Williamston Road. He reportedly crossed the center line and struck the Nissan Altima with the victims inside.
Defendant driver was charged with three counts of felony DUI involving death and felony driving under the influence resulting in great bodily injury.
Whatever the outcome of the criminal case, it will not resolve the incredible losses suffered by the families of those who are gone. In truth, nothing will.
However, Dram Shop Act litigation becomes a powerful way to compel businesses to act responsibly in serving alcohol to patrons. When businesses know they will be held to account for failure in this regard, they are more apt to make sure they have adequate controls in place to ensure the law is followed. While the families do receive compensation, often the greater goal is taking action to make sure such errors aren’t repeated, as no one should have to suffer this kind of devastation.
Researchers have found time and again that Dram shop liability laws reduce alcohol-related crashes. A study in 2001 indicated a nearly 6 percent drop in fatal crashes in states that had adopted Dram shop liability laws. In essence, dram shop liability puts it in the best economic interests of the establishment to serve alcohol responsibly.
Our Anderson DUI injury lawyers know that in South Carolina, there is no Dram Shop Act per se.
However, the 2010 South Carolina Supreme Court decision in Hartfield v. The Getaway Lounge & Grill, Inc., underscored where state courts stand on the issue. The court ruled civil remedy arises out of criminal statutes, and it is illegal to serve alcohol to an intoxicated person, and there is a permissive inference that a person is impaired if he or she has a blood-alcohol content of 0.10 or higher. The court was clear in that case that it’s not necessary for a patron to be visibly intoxicated in order for the legal threshold to be met.
In that case, the state supreme court affirmed a $10 million verdict against defendants. In the more recent case, the families are seeking damages in excess of $10 million.
Contact the South Carolina injury lawyers at the Lee Law Offices by calling 800-887-1965.
Lawsuit filed against deadly DUI suspect, bars that served him alcohol, March 10, 2015, By Dal Kalsi and Charlisa Gordon, Fox Carolina
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Wadeer v. N.J. Mfrs. Ins. Co. – Recovery of Damages for “Phantom Vehicle” Accident, March 6, 2015, Anderson Injury Lawyer Blog