Personal Injury Blog

Are Bars Responsible When Drunk Drivers Cause Accidents?

Authored by CSCS

Maryland recently reviewed this exact issue, whether or not a bar or restaurant is liable when serving alcohol to patrons for damages those patrons cause while intoxicated. Most states across the United States have adopted dram shop statutes, which impose liability on restaurant and bar owners. However, in Warr v. JMGM Group, LLC, the Maryland Court of Appeals stated that in Maryland the "general rule [is] that there is no duty to control a third person's conduct so as to prevent personal harm to another, unless a 'special relationship' exists either between the actor and the third person or between the actor and the person injured."

Therefore, unless a special relationship exists, which is most often not the case, the injured victim cannot recover from the bar or restaurant. This becomes a problem when the drunk driver does not carry enough insurance to cover the victim's injuries. This was the perfect case to bring before the court as the plaintiff was a 10 year old girl who was killed on I-270 after the defendant was served 20 drinks in a Gaithersburg bar, but the court was not persuaded.

In the dissenting opinion, Judge Adkins pointed out some glaring statistics in support of dram shop liability. She noted that "an average of 220 people died annually as a result of impaired driving-related crashes on Maryland roads." She found that "this equates to 18 deaths a month or a death every 40 hours."

The dissent supported imposing liability in the limited circumstance where a bar continues to serve customers after they are visibly intoxicated. This view would hold the bar accountable for its contribution to the known risk. As it stands for now, dram shop statutes have failed in the legislature and dram shop liability has not been imposed by the courts. Hopefully, Maryland will soon change with the times and recognize the value of these laws and the protection they could afford Maryland citizens.

For more information about drunk driving accidents and personal injury claims, contact a Maryland personal injury lawyer from Chaikin, Sherman, Cammarata & Siegel, P.C. today.