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Dram Shop Drunk Driving Case Results in $2.55 Million Settlement

February 28, 2011

An off-duty police officer, and the restaurant that served her alcohol despite obvious signs the driver was intoxicated, have settled a wrongful death lawsuit to compensate the families of four young people killed and one man injured in a traffic crash in Des Peres, Missouri for $2.55 million. The bar and the driver settled for the combined total available limits of their insurance coverage. A wrongful-death lawsuit, brought by the deceased victims' families and the survivor, alleged that the female officer, who was off duty at the time, drank "a high quantity" of alcohol at O'Leary's Restaurant & Bar, and then drove her car into oncoming traffic.

The lawsuit also named the restaurant as a defendant, alleging that its employees were aware the officer was intoxicated and failed to stop her from driving or to call a cab. This lawsuit is an example of how dram shop liability can apply, as well as the importance of such liability when a drunk driving accident causes catastrophic injuries or fatalities. At Montlick and Associates, Attorneys at Law, we have been representing those who suffer serious injury or wrongful death in car collisions with drunk drivers for over 39 years.

The facts of this case were particularly egregious in terms of the conduct by both the driver and the restaurant. The off-duty police officer's blood alcohol level (BAC) was .169 in excess of, or twice the legal limit, over three hours after the fatal car accident. She was so intoxicated that she was driving on the wrong side of the road even though as a police officer she had first-hand knowledge of the catastrophic injuries and wrongful deaths caused by drunk driving accidents. Drunk driving lawsuits like these often settle for substantial amounts because liability is clear, and the conduct of the drunk driver may result in massive punitive damage if a jury decides the case. A significant problem is often that the insurance that is available is not sufficient to fully provide compensation to the injured parties. However, as detailed below, that is where a very experienced Georgia Auto Accident Lawyer can many times find additional sources of compensation as in this case where the restaurant that served the alcohol was brought in as an additional defendant.

The conduct of the restaurant in this case is also a textbook example of what dram shop laws are designed to prevent. The Georgia dram shop law permits liability to be imposed on a restaurant where alcoholic beverages are sold or furnished to a person who is in a "state of noticeable intoxication," with knowledge that such person will soon be driving a motor vehicle. According to documents filed in the lawsuit, the bar workers served the officer alcohol despite her slurred speech and unsteady gait. Dram shop laws are designed to prevent businesses that serve alcohol from turning a blind eye in situations like this one. If the restaurant had intervened, the lives of four young people might have been saved.

The outcome in this case also provides an example of why dram shop liability can be critical to lawsuits involving drunk drivers where the accident victim suffers catastrophic injuries or wrongful death. The damages in this case were so extensive that both the restaurant and the driver's insurance settled for coverage limits. In the absence of dram shop liability, the accident victims in this case may have been forced to settle for far less because there would have been less insurance coverage. Drunk driving accidents disproportionately result in catastrophic injuries and death so without additional insurance coverage the victim may not receive adequate financial compensation.

Montlick and Associates, Attorneys at Law, has been representing Georgia residents who suffer catastrophic injury or wrongful death in drunk driving accidents for over 39 years. Our experienced Georgia drunk driving accident attorneys are available to assist clients throughout all of Georgia and the Southeast, including but not limited to Albany, Athens, Atlanta, Augusta, Columbus, Gainesville, Macon, Marietta, Rome, Roswell, Savannah, Smyrna, Valdosta, Warner Robins and all smaller cities and rural areas in the state. No matter where you are located our attorneys are just a phone call away, and we will even come to you. Call us 24 hours a day/7 days a week for your Free Consultation at 1-800-LAW-NEED (1-800-529-6333). You can also visit us online at and use our Free Case Evaluation Form or 24-hour Live Online Chat.

Category: Montlick Law

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All information provided by our blogs is general in nature and should not be relied upon as legal advice. Consult a Montlick attorney for details about your unique situation.