Liability for Damages and/or Injuries Involving an Alcohol-Impaired Person

We live in a world where commercials on TV portray a happy, friend-filled lifestyle for people who drink a particular brand of beer, wine, or other alcoholic beverage. Then at the end of the commercial, the announcer reminds us to “please drink responsibly.”

Now it would be nice if everyone listened to the announcer, but in fact that does not always happen. According to in 2013 there were 10,076 persons killed in drunk-driving crashes, which is one every 52 minutes.

Sometimes people choose to purchase alcohol on their own and drink alone. Other times people go to parties and drink with friends. Often, people go to bars or restaurants and are served drinks by a bartender or server. It’s this scenario where the responsibility and liability for the actions of impaired persons is sometimes murky.

A case in France recently gained world-wide attention when a man died after being served 56 shots of alcohol, and the bartender was found guilty of manslaughter. See Time Magazine story here: TIME

Our courts have the job of deciding who is at fault when someone causes harm after becoming intoxicated, and in Florida there are statutes covering these situations. In Florida, one applicable statute is:

Section 768.125, Florida Statutes Liability for injury or damage resulting from intoxication
A person who sells or furnishes alcoholic beverages to a person of lawful drinking age shall not thereby become liable for injury or damage caused by or resulting from the intoxication of such person, except that a person who willfully and unlawfully sells or furnishes alcoholic beverages to a person who is not of lawful drinking age or who knowingly serves a person habitually addicted to the use of any or all alcoholic beverages may become liable for injury or damage caused by or resulting from the intoxication of such minor or person.

This statute was integral in a recent Florida case, namely “Hall v. West” where the circumstances were:

In the early morning of April 20, Mr. Hall suffered serious injuries when struck by a speeding car driven by Joshua Dean West. Mr. West and several friends had visited Shephard’s earlier. Mr. West drank alcoholic beverages before and after arriving at Shephard’s; he was intoxicated. Shephard’s security personnel told Mr. West to leave the premises and escorted him and his friends to their car. Mr. West got behind the wheel and drove off. Some two hours later and thirteen miles away in Palm Harbor, Mr. West struck Mr. Hall. Mr. West’s blood alcohol level later tested at .188.

Mr. West attempted to recover damages and claimed that Shephard’s was partially at fault for his injuries. In this case, the District Court of Appeal, 2nd District held that the plaintiff (Mr. West) was of legal drinking age, and there was no evidence to suggest that Shephard’s personnel knew whether he was habitually addicted to alcohol, and barred Mr. West’s recovery.

Cases like these are very complex, and involve issues of liability, negligence, and sometimes even criminal charges. Competent legal advice is advised when involved in these matters if one is a business owner, a person accused of causing damage or injury, or an injured party.

The Law Office of Lazarus and Lazarus has been handling cases similar to the above described proceedings for over 20 years all over Florida. Gary and Arleen Lazarus are eminently qualified to discuss the issues of any occurrence that involved possible negligent damage and/or injuries and they can be reached by calling 954-356-0006 any time day or night.