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Plaintiff Who Was Struck By Drunk Driver Sues Bar, Several Claims Dismissed in Recent Opinion

In Barnes v. Smith, a recent case in front of the Georgia court of appeals, a woman filed suit against the owner of a tavern in Rockdale County, Georgia. The woman was injured in a car accident with a drunk driver who had been drinking at the tavern. The driver drank at the tavern in the afternoon and returned at around 11:00 p.m. that night, when he drank half of a beer and another “Jager bomb” drink. The bartender who served the driver noticed that the driver’s eyes were glassy and that he was acting belligerent. She tried to take the driver’s car keys and offered to call him a cab or drive him home. The man refused. Then, the bartender tried to prevent him from leaving, but the driver was able to leave despite her efforts. The bartender did not call the police at any point.

Liquor BottlesThe plaintiff filed suit under Georgia’s Dram Shop Law, O.C.G.A. 51-1-40. Specifically, the claims were against the bar, the company that owned the bar, and the sole shareholder of that company. The plaintiff also alleged the tavern negligently trained and supervised its employees.

At trial, the bar and the shareholder moved for summary judgment, claiming that the plaintiff did not make out her claims and that the case should be dismissed. The trial court agreed and dismissed all claims against these two defendants. The plaintiff appealed the dismissal against these two parties. In a recent opinion, the Georgia Court of Appeals agreed with the defendants, finding that there was not sufficient evidence to prove the woman’s negligent supervision claim. The woman had to provide evidence that the business knew or should have known of the bartender’s likelihood to engage in the behavior that resulted in the woman’s injuries. The woman did not provide any specific evidence that the bartender required additional supervision based on her history.

In addition, the court found the sole shareholder of the business could not be held personally liable for the claim. The court noted that although sometimes an officer of a corporation can be held personally liable, claims against corporate officers for negligent training and supervision generally do not provide such a basis. The court explained that a corporate officer’s failure to train an employee normally does not directly result in the injuries giving rise to the claim. As a result, the case was dismissed.

The appellate court explained in a footnote that the lower court’s decision did not mention the Dram Shop claim against the company that owned the bar. The court noted that nothing in the most recent opinion should be read to prevent that claim from proceeding toward trial or settlement.

Georgia Dram Shop Laws

Dram shop laws allow people to hold individuals or businesses liable for injuries caused by intoxicated patrons who were served by them. Georgia’s Dram Shop Law, O.C.G.A. 51-1-40, allows individuals to bring claims against:

“…a person who willfully, knowingly, and unlawfully sells, furnishes, or serves alcoholic beverages to a person who is not of lawful drinking age, knowing that such person will soon be driving a motor vehicle, or who knowingly sells, furnishes, or serves alcoholic beverages to a person who is in a state of noticeable intoxication, knowing that such person will soon be driving a motor vehicle, may become liable for injury or damage caused by or resulting from the intoxication of such minor or person when the sale, furnishing, or serving is the proximate cause of such injury or damage.”

Accordingly, a plaintiff generally has to show a person knowingly gave alcohol to an underage driver or served someone who was visibly drunk and would be soon driving a motor vehicle.

Have You Been Hurt by a Drunk Driver?

If you have been injured by a drunk driver, you may be able to bring a claim against the driver, as well as a person or business who provided the person with alcohol. Georgia’s Dram Shop Law is strict, however, and requires a knowledgeable and skilled attorney to bring a successful claim. At the McAleer Law Firm, our Atlanta personal injury attorneys are experienced in DUI accident claims. We are willing to take all of our clients’ cases to trial so that our clients will be able to recover more money for their injuries. Call us at 404-622-5337 or contact us through our online form for a free consultation.

See More Posts:

Government’s Failure to Modify Roads to Prevent Hydroplaning Can Pose Increased Risk for Drivers, Georgia Injury Attorney Blog, November 8, 2016.

Woman Fails to File Expert Affidavit in Medical Malpractice Claim but Able To Proceed Regardless, Georgia Injury Attorney Blog, November 17, 2016.