Massachusetts Liquor Liability Settlement Illustrates Continuing Problems With Bars Serving Intoxicated Patrons: Part 2 of 2

In my previous post on this topic, I discussed a recent case involving Massachusetts liquor liability, and what that kind of case consists of. Now I’ll explain why a bar or restaurant can be held liable if a patron who becomes intoxicated at that restaurant, later injures someone as a result of that intoxication.

Legal liability in a case like this arises from the negligence of restaurant management in failing to adequately hire, train, and monitor the skills and activities of its servers and/or wait staff who serve alcoholic beverages. If the restaurant management in this case had properly hired, monitored and supervised the waitress involved, they would have seen that this waitress was deliberately ignoring the restaurant’s legal duty to spot and prevent patrons from being served too much alcohol, and the resulting Massachusetts car accident and injuries suffered by the plaintiffs here, would not have occurred. The legal argument used by this plaintiff (and similar plainitffs,) is that the restaurant management: 1) Had a legal duty to prevent patrons from becoming overly-intoxicated at its establishment (accomplished through appropriate enforcement of the highly effective TIPS program); 2) That the restaurant management “knew or should have known” that if it did not hire adequate personnel and monitor its wait staff for compliance with this program, one or more patrons would become excessively intoxicated and very possibly cause injuries to third parties – in essence, that the accident was “foreseeable”; 3) That such an accident or injuries did occur, and that it occurred due to the intoxication of that customer; and 4) That the plaintiff(s) suffered damages as a result.

As to exactly how a skilled plaintiff’s attorney proves to a jury that negligence occurred, a variety of techniques can be used (depending, of course, on the expertise level of the attorney representing you.) In this case, the attorney for the plaintiffs was prepared to call an expert witness – a medical biochemist – to testify as to what the expected – and observable – signs and symptoms of intoxication would have been in this case, and the plaintiff was also prepared to call an expert consultant who was a certified TIPS trainer. That expert would have testified that this bar’s policies and procedures in monitoring and enforcing the TIPS program were lax and inadequate. Further, as to evidence, the plaintiff’s attorneys fought very hard to find and secure the bar receipt for the customer who later engaged in drunk driving and caused this accident, which the restaurant did everything they could to hide. That receipt showed that the waitress involved, received a $100 tip for a $50 bar tab from the defendant driver. This was key to establishing the restaurant’s negligence in failing to monitor the skill level and TIPS enforcement pattern of this waitress. If a jury ever saw this receipt, and saw the financial ‘reward’ given to this waitress for over-serving this drunk driver, it would have been devastating to the defense and to the restaurant.

In the end, the defendant restaurant opted to avoid a trial (a smart move on their part,) and the case settled for $1.9 million. This case illustrates two key things to remember: 1) In Massachusetts, bars and restaurants can be held liable for injuries or death to third parties caused by its customers who become intoxicated at their establishments, and then drive drunk; 2) When choosing a Norfolk County Massachusetts personal injury lawyer, who you choose is critical. If your lawyer doesn’t have the experience and skill to know how to get results in these types of Massachusetts personal injury cases, you may well not get very good results. It takes, experience, expertise, and skill to bring defendants in personal injury cases, to pay adequate damages when they’re legally responsible for causing someone else’s injuries. We know how to get those results. Call us for a free consultation if you, a loved one, or someone you know has been injured due to someone else’s negligence.