Dram Shop Laws Give DUI Injury Victims Options for Damages
Gregg Hollander | December 24, 2014 | Personal Injury
It’s been two years since Dallas Cowboys defensive tackle Josh Brent left a night club drunk, got behind the wheel of a vehicle and crashed the car – killing his best friend and teammate Jerry Brown Jr.
He was criminally convicted, sentenced to 6 months in jail and 10 years’ probation. He’s now out of prison and has been reinstated to his team, which has announced he will play in a game again for the first time this month.
However, he now faces a lawsuit filed by the nightclub that served him copious amounts of booze that fateful night. The father of his deceased teammate (and also in a separate lawsuit, the mother) sued the bar, alleging staffers knowingly continued to serve Brent even after he was visibly intoxicated and knew he planned to drive. The bar recently filed a counterclaim against Brent, alleging his negligence was the sole cause of the crash, and he is the one who should be held responsible.
Brent was added as a defendant in the lawsuit brought by his former teammate’s father, but not yet the one brought by Brown’s mother.
Our Fort Myers DUI wrongful death lawyers understand the Texas dram shop laws on which these claims are predicated are similar to those recognized in Florida.
In Florida, F.S. 768.125 states third parties won’t be liable for damages or injury caused by intoxicated persons, unless a person sells or furnishes alcohol to someone who is underage or habitually addicted to alcohol and that person in turn goes out and causes harm to another.
In Texas, meanwhile, the state’s alcoholic beverage code allows for civil liability against providers of alcohol who furnished drinks to someone who was visibly impaired to the extent he or she presented a clear danger to himself or others.
Given the facts we know regarding the Brent case, it’s highly plausible both entities could be found liable by a court. The 25-year-old football player reportedly had a blood-alcohol content of 0.18 percent – more than twice the legal limit – at the time of the fatal crash, just 20 minutes after the pair left the club. He was reportedly traveling 110 miles-per-hour and lost control of the vehicle.
But there is also ample evidence the nightclub staff heavily promoted its “celebrity guests” and served them numerous bottles of champagne while they were there.
Later, the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission launched an investigation into the incident, and ultimately cited the club and shut it down temporarily. The commissioned determined staffers engaged in practices that promoted excessive consumption of alcohol by certain patrons – namely, Brent.
Later, the owners voluntarily closed the business on their own.
Civil judgments secured for injuries and wrongful death for drunk driving accidents cannot be discharged in a bankruptcy action, the way most other debts can. However, many DUI defendants – particularly those facing years in prison – may not have the resources to pay a judgment in full or at all.
Dram shop laws provide one avenue of liability and accountability.
They also serve as a deterrent to other establishments that serve alcohol to minors and those known to pose a potential risk to the general public.
If you have been injured in an accident, contact the Hollander Law Firm at (561) 347-7770 for a free and confidential consultation. There is no fee unless we win.
Nightclub sues Cowboys’ Josh Brent in response to lawsuit by Jerry Brown Jr.’s father, Dec. 3, 2014, By Julie Fancher, Dallas News
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Florida Motorcycle Injuries and Comparative Fault, Dec. 7, 2014, Fort Myers Injury Lawyer Blog