Monday, September 28, 2009

Does Idaho Allow Damages Against a Drinking Establishment for Serving Alcohol to A Drunk Driver?

In Idaho, a person who is injured due to the negligence of a drunk driver may also have a claim against the person who sold or otherwise funished a drunk driver with alcohol under a number of scenarios including where the server served a person with alcohol who was under the legal age to consume it (age 21), and where that person then operates a motor vehicle and causes a motor vehicle crash. Another situation where a purveyor of alcohol could be liable for damages caused by a drunk driver is where a person or entity sells or furnishes a drunk driver with alcohol while the driver was in an obviously intoxicated state and then thereafter proceeds to operate a motor vehicle and negligently causes a motor vehicle collision.

However, Idaho does not allow a passenger who gets into a car with a drunk driver to sue the purveyor of the alcohol.

Furthermore, before a lawsuit may be maintained against a purveyor of alcohol, the injured party must serve a notice of dram shop upon the purveyor of alcohol WITHIN 180 DAYS FROM THE DATE THE CLAIM OR CAUSE OF ACTION AROSE of the injured party's intent to bring an action against the person who sold or furnished the alcohol. See Idaho Code Section 23-808(5). The notice must be sent to the purveyor of alcohol by certified mail within the aforementioned time period. Failure to serve the notice of dram shop on the purveyor of alcohol with 180 days of the date the claim or cause of action arose could result in a complete bar to any claim or recovery against the party who sold or furnished the alcohol to the person who was in an obviously intoxicated state.

One who is injured by a drunk driver should consult with a lawyer immediately in order to protect their legal rights and remedies to allow counsel the ability to conduct an investigation and to prepare and serve the purveyor of alcohol with a notice of dram shop in a time manner.

Some time ago a person who was on his way to work one evening was killed by a drunk driver. Earlier that evening the drunk driver had been at a party conducted at a local drinking establishment. The driver had allegedly consumed a pitcher and 1/2 of beer along with approximately 10 shots of alcohol before leaving the establishment. On his way home, the drunk driver (BAC: .24 [3 times the legal limit]) went on the interstate, missed his exit and continued on past 2 more exits before finally getting off the interstate. After exiting the freeway, the drunk driver fell asleep and drove the vehicle across the center line causing a head on collision with other driver killing the other driver instantly.

Fortunately, the wife of the deceased driver contacted our office, and we were able to conduct an investigation in the hopes of determining where the drunk driver was served with the alcohol. Because the victim's family acted quickly, we were successful in ascertaining where the party was conducted and ascertaining facts to support the claim. Witnesses told me that the drunk driver had consumed so much alcohol prior to the collision that the driver and those in the party had each engaged in projectile vomiting while they were in the establishment (a sign of obvious intoxication). By taking quick action in retaining our firm, a notice of dram shop was prepared and served upon the perveyor of the alcohol to the drunk driver. This turned out to be essential in the case for the family since the drunk driver only had insurance coverage for minimum limits of only $25,000.00. By taking quick action in retaining counsel, the family of the deceased driver was able to pursue a dram shop claim to obtain restitution for the lost wages the family lost due to the death of the family's husband (and father) as well as damages for loss of consortium. Had the family waited past 180 days to serve a notice of dram shop action against the purveyor of the alcohol to the drunk driver while he was in an obviously intoxicated state, the family would have been denied compensation from the drinking establishment.
During the lawsuit, we were able to determine that the drinking establishment had failed to properly train their staff in how to determine whether a patron should be "cut off" of service. By pursuing this claim we were successful not only in obtaining fair compensation to the family who lost their husband and father but also in providing incentives to the drinking establishment in providing their employees with the necessary training all drinking establishments should provide their employees in determining when someone should be cut off of service or otherwise had received too much to drink thereby obtaining our objective in taking action on behalf of our clients which resulted in making the community a safer place for our kids and grandkids (as well as for the rest of us)!

CONTACT INFORMATION: If you or a family member have been injured or damaged due to the fault or responsibility of someone else, an industrial accident or by a dangerous or defective product, drug or toxic substance, contact Alan Morton for a no obligation, free consultation.

For additional information contact:

Alan L. Morton
1005 North Eighth Street
Post Office Box 420
Boise, ID 83701-0420
Telephone: 208.344.5555
Toll Free: 866.946.1669 [866.WIN.1.NOW]
Facsimile: 208.342.2509

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