Dram Shop laws allow for those injured by drunk drivers to seek redress against the bars or persons who furnished the alcohol under certain circumstances. Indiana’s Dram Shop law can be found at Indiana Code section 7.1-5-10-15(a). Specifically, the Dram Shop Act prohibits the furnishing of an alcoholic beverage to an intoxicated person, provided the person furnishing the alcoholic beverage knows the other person is intoxicated.
The Dram Shop Act represents a legislative judgment and the declared public policy of this state that providers of alcoholic beverages should be liable for the reasonably foreseeable consequences of knowingly serving visibly intoxicated persons.
In the recent Indiana Court of Appeals decision entitled, Pierson v. Service America Corporation, a young girl was killed and her friend seriously injured when they were struck by a vehicle driven by Trenton Gaff as he was leaving an Indianapolis Colts Football game.
Evidence revealed that Gaff drank beer before, during, and after the Colts game. He then drove and killed the Plaintiff and injured her friend as they were walking down the street. A lawsuit was filed against the vendor who was responsible for selling beer to Gaff at Lucas Oil Stadium. The vendor, in this case, uses hundreds of volunteers to sell beer at the games with portions of the proceeds going to their organization. Plaintiffs could not identify the actual person who sold the beer to Gaff. Vendor filed a motion for summary judgment and prevailed at the trial court because the Plaintiffs could not prove that the person who served Gaff had actual knowledge that he was intoxicated.
The Indiana Court of Appeals reversed the trial court’s decision. Evidence showed that Gaff had blood alcohol content (BAC) of .20 at around 8:00 p.m. that evening. An expert said that Gaff’s BAC would have been much less than that if the witnesses’ claims that Gaff had “only a few beers” were accurate. The Court of Appeals found that summary judgment was inappropriate even though the evidence was unclear as to who actually served him, how many drinks were served, and at what point Gaff would have exhibited signs of intoxication.
This decision could be considered a loosening of the high threshold required to prove Dram Shop liability in Indiana.
If you or a family member have been injured by a drunk or impaired driver and you have questions about who is at fault, contact the attorneys at Goodin Abernathy LLP for a free, no obligation consultation.
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