Everyone knows that too much booze is never a good thing. It can leave you with ah hangover the next day. Cause you to get sick in the middle of festivities. Result in you saying something you don’t mean. Lead to you injuring yourself – or others. It can even result in death from alcohol poisoning or a serious accident.
In a legal case like a DUI or an accident involving alcohol, the intoxicated person is usually held liable for their actions. What about the people who were serving them, though? Should they be held liable for not cutting people off sooner? Can you hold them liable?
Florida law makes the answer to that question a bit complicated.
What Does Florida Say About Alcohol Liability?
Florida’s take on suing bars and other establishments that serve alcohol is different from other states. Florida Statute 768.125 states:
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.
Basically, in most cases you cannot sue a bar or restaurant from serving alcohol to someone who later dies or causes an injury to themselves or others. However, if the bar serves a known minor or alcoholic and their intoxication results in damages – including the individual’s death – you will be able to sue the establishment.
In fact, a Tallahassee couple recently sued 14 different bars for this very reason.
Daughter’s Death Leads to Wrongful Death Suit against Bars
In 2014, Julia Gruskin crashed her car into a concrete structure in the middle of a roundabout and died. She’d been out drinking with friends, and her BAC tested at .30 – almost four times the legal limit. Even though their daughter is the one who crashed the car, Julia’s parents were able to sue the establishments that served her that night in relation to her death for a couple of reasons.
Her age. Julia was 20 when she died, meaning she shouldn’t have been able to go to bars and drink at all. As was mentioned above, when bars serve alcohol to minors or known alcoholics, they can be held liable for what happens due to those individuals being intoxicated.
Her extreme BAC level. When your blood alcohol content is .30, you’re visibly messed up. Perhaps you’ve heard that bartenders and other employees at establishments that serve alcohol are supposed to receive training on when to stop serving people drinks. As a patron, you’ve almost certainly seen signs at various establishments saying they have the right to refuse service to anyone who is intoxicated.
These policies and procedures come from legal liability that is placed on bars and establishments that serve alcohol and are designed to prevent what happened at those 14 bars in Tallahassee. Bottom line, the bars should have stopped serving Julia way earlier in the night.
Understanding How Wrongful Death Suits Work in Florida
Before you file a claim against an individual or an establishment for wrongful death, it is important to understand what type of claim you are making, and what you need to prove in order to win your case.
Wrongful death claims are filed to recover damages after a loved one’s death. Surviving family members, including spouses, children, parents, and other relatives that were dependent on the deceased person can file for damages including funeral expenses, value of companionship and care, and so on. The damages may be rewarded directly to dependent family members, or to the deceased person’s estate.
Winning a wrongful death claim is similar to winning other personal injury claims. You will have to prove that the defendant owed a duty to the victim, that the duty was breached, and that the breach of duty caused the victim’s accident and death. You will also have to prove that the death caused the damages that you wish to recover.
Did a Bar Let Your Loved One Drink Too Much This St. Paddy’s Day?
Big drinking holidays like St. Paddy’s Day are a blessing and a curse for establishments that serve alcohol. They want all the extra business that the celebrations bring in, but they are also wary because bigger crowds make it harder to spot people they shouldn’t serve.
That, however, is part of the responsibility they have if they want to continue operating. If an establishment allowed your underage or alcoholic loved one to drink too much and it led to harm, you owe it to them, your family, and the community to hold that establishment accountable. Talk to a Florida wrongful death lawyer and learn what your options are.
About the Author:
Andrew Winston is a partner at the personal injury law firm of Winston Law. For over 20 years, he has successfully represented countless people in all kinds of personal injury cases, with a particular focus on child injury, legal malpractice, and premises liability. He has been recognized for excellence in the representation of injured clients by admission to the Million Dollar Advocates Forum, is AV Preeminent Rated by the Martindale-Hubbell Law Directory, enjoys a 10.0 rating by AVVO as a Top Personal Injury Attorney, has been selected as a Florida “SuperLawyer” from 2011-2017 – an honor reserved for the top 5% of lawyers in the state – and was voted to Florida Trend’s “Legal Elite” and as one of the Top 100 Lawyers in Florida and one of the Top 100 Lawyers in the Miami area for 2015, 2016, and 2017.