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Bob Carroll
Bob Carroll
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Drinking Ice Tea Glasses Of Scotch At 11 AM Is Evidence Of Alcoholism

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Florida has a law that protects bars and other alcohol-serving establishments from legal liability for injuries caused by intoxicated drivers after leaving the premises. Even if a bar patron were to become stewed to the gills, falling down drunk or wasted and had trouble finding the exit door the bar would not be legally responsible as a cause of a subsequent automobile crash. The one exception to this immunity: a person who willfully…sells or furnishes alcoholic beverages to 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…person.

Since it is unlikely that bar patrons who are habitually addicted wear badges declaring they are alcoholics, the question faced by me and other lawyers representing the victims of drunk drivers is how do we prove a particular drunk driver was a known alcoholic at his last bar.

A recent appellate court decision indicates that a regular bar customer who shows up at 9 a.m. and is able to drink an ice tea sized glass of scotch may well be an alcoholic, especially when the patron says he had three of them. I believe the fact that he was able to leave his stool and walk to the exit door is probably proof of his alcoholism.

CARLEE MURPHY, Appellant,v. SOUTHERN MUTUAL MANAGEMENT CORP., d/b/a OCEAN GRILLE, Appellee. No. 4D05-4029 [July 12, 2006]

Appellant plaintiff was injured by a drunk driver and sued the bar where he had consumed alcohol before causing the accident. The trial court granted the bar’s motion for summary judgment, but we reverse.

Around 1:00 p.m. on April 21, 2000, James Centlivre drove his car onto the sidewalk and injured plaintiff. Two blood samples showed blood alcohol levels of .31 and .30, more than three times the legal limit for intoxication. Plaintiff sued the bar where Centlivre had started drinking at 9:00 a.m. that morning, alleging a violation of section 768.125, Florida Statutes (2000), which provides:

A person who sells or furnishes alcoholic beverages to a person of lawful drinking age shall not thereby become liable for injury…, except that a person who willfully…sells or furnishes alcoholic beverages to 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…person.

Plaintiff’s complaint alleged that the bar employees knew that Centlivre was an alcoholic and had served him drinks that morning despite having that knowledge.

Centlivre testified in his deposition that he drank alcoholic beverages at this bar at least three times a week for nine years prior to the accident, and the bartender testified that on the day of the accident he had served Centlivre an ice tea sized glass of scotch around 9:00 a.m.

In Ellis v. N.G.N. of Tampa, Inc., 586 So. 2d 1042 (Fla. 1991), our supreme court stated that proof that a bar served an individual a substantial amount of alcohol on multiple occasions would be evidence from which a jury could determine that the vendor had sufficient knowledge to have violated section 768.125. See also Sabo v. Shamrock Commc’n, Inc., 566 So. 2d 267 (Fla. 5th DCA 1990). Under these cases there were issues of fact as to the violation of the statute which precluded a summary judgment.

Florida has a law that protects bars and other alcohol-serving establishments from legal liability for injuries caused by intoxicated drivers after leaving the premises. Even if a bar patron were to become stewed to the gills, falling down drunk or wasted and had trouble finding the exit door the bar would not be legally responsible as a cause of a subsequent automobile crash. The one exception to this immunity: a person who willfully…sells or furnishes alcoholic beverages to 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…person.

Since it is unlikely that bar patrons who are habitually addicted wear badges declaring they are alcoholics, the question faced by me and other lawyers representing the victims of drunk drivers is how do we prove a particular drunk driver was a known alcoholic at his last bar.

A recent appellate court decision indicates that a regular bar customer who shows up at 9 a.m. and is able to drink an ice tea sized glass of scotch may well be an alcoholic, especially when the patron says he had three of them. I believe the fact that he was able to leave his stool and walk to the exit door is probably proof of his alcoholism.

CARLEE MURPHY, Appellant,v. SOUTHERN MUTUAL MANAGEMENT CORP., d/b/a OCEAN GRILLE, Appellee. No. 4D05-4029 [July 12, 2006]

Appellant plaintiff was injured by a drunk driver and sued the bar where he had consumed alcohol before causing the accident. The trial court granted the bar’s motion for summary judgment, but we reverse.

Around 1:00 p.m. on April 21, 2000, James Centlivre drove his car onto the sidewalk and injured plaintiff. Two blood samples showed blood alcohol levels of .31 and .30, more than three times the legal limit for intoxication. Plaintiff sued the bar where Centlivre had started drinking at 9:00 a.m. that morning, alleging a violation of section 768.125, Florida Statutes (2000), which provides:

A person who sells or furnishes alcoholic beverages to a person of lawful drinking age shall not thereby become liable for injury…, except that a person who willfully…sells or furnishes alcoholic beverages to 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…person.

Plaintiff’s complaint alleged that the bar employees knew that Centlivre was an alcoholic and had served him drinks that morning despite having that knowledge.

Centlivre testified in his deposition that he drank alcoholic beverages at this bar at least three times a week for nine years prior to the accident, and the bartender testified that on the day of the accident he had served Centlivre an ice tea sized glass of scotch around 9:00 a.m.

In Ellis v. N.G.N. of Tampa, Inc., 586 So. 2d 1042 (Fla. 1991), our supreme court stated that proof that a bar served an individual a substantial amount of alcohol on multiple occasions would be evidence from which a jury could determine that the vendor had sufficient knowledge to have violated section 768.125. See also Sabo v. Shamrock Commc’n, Inc., 566 So. 2d 267 (Fla. 5th DCA 1990). Under these cases there were issues of fact as to the violation of the statute which precluded a summary judgment.