Potentially Liable Parties in Drunk Driving Accidents May Include the Establishment that Served the Intoxicated Driver

The Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts recently released its opinion in a case that arose from a tragic drunk driving accident back in 2011. According to the court’s opinion, the decedent was killed when he drove drunk after leaving a local restaurant. Evidently, the decedent was a frequent patron of the restaurant and was witnessed to have been drunk on several prior occasions. There was also evidence that he was heavily drinking on the night of the accident. Evidence also showed that on a prior night, the decedent was with his two young daughters at the very same bar. One of his daughters was crying and told the bartender that she was crying because her father was drunk, but the bartender continued to serve drinks to the man.

After the deadly accident, the deceased man’s daughters filed a wrongful death action under state law, claiming that the defendant was negligent in serving alcohol to their father. The defendant argued that the plaintiffs did not have personal knowledge of the circumstances, and therefore the case should be dismissed. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the lower court’s ruling that the case should not be dismissed because the state’s Dram Shop Law allows affidavits based on other information and beliefs, and this particular case satisfied the evidentiary requirements. In other words, first-hand knowledge was not required.

New Mexico Evidentiary Requirements in Dram Shop Cases Involving Truck Drivers

Most people understand that when a person is injured or killed due to a drunk truck driver, they may bring a lawsuit against the negligent driver and potentially the driver’s employer. However, in some circumstances, the victim may also bring a suit against the party who served the driver alcohol. New Mexico law only allows recovery if the victim can show that the defendant served alcohol when the party was already intoxicated, it was reasonably apparent that the person was drunk, and the serving person should have known or did know that the person was intoxicated.

Issues often arise when the plaintiff gets to the “reasonably apparent” prong of the claim. It can be very difficult to establish that the party was drunk. However, about four years ago, the New Mexico Supreme Court addressed this issue, which has now made it easier to bring dram shop cases against establishments that over serve alcohol to their customers. The case made clear that circumstantial evidence alone is sufficient to prove that it was “reasonably apparent” that the party was intoxicated. The case also held that identifying the individual responsible for serving the drunk driver was not essential. This means that the “reasonably apparent” requirement can be applied to any employee or server who should have known that the party was intoxicated. Additionally, the court stated that circumstantial evidence, such as a patron’s testimony and observations of law enforcement, could be utilized in a claim.

In the case of New Mexico truck accidents, the permissible blood alcohol limit is half of that for regular drivers. Of course, truck drivers should not be drinking at all, and establishments should not be serving alcohol to truck drivers they know to be en route. However, the Dram Shop Act may provide plaintiffs in truck accident cases with another avenue of relief because they may be able to seek compensation from the establishment as well as the truck driver.

Have You Been Injured in a New Mexico Truck Accident?

If you or a loved one has been injured or killed by an intoxicated truck driver in New Mexico, you should contact an attorney at the Fine Law Firm to discuss the merits of your case. These cases require a significant amount of preparation because there may be several responsible parties involved. As a result, there are many evidentiary and procedural requirements that must be followed. An attorney at the Fine Law Firm can take charge of your case and navigate through these complex issues on your behalf. If you are successful, you may be entitled to monetary compensation for the injuries you or your loved one has suffered. Contact an attorney at the Fine Law Firm today at 800-640-6590 to schedule your free initial consultation.

More Blog Posts:

The Importance of the Pretrial Stages in New Mexico Civil Legal Proceedings, New Mexico Personal Injury Lawyer Blog, May 4, 2016.

Minibus Accident in France Claims 12 Lives, New Mexico Personal Injury Lawyer Blog, April 7, 2016.