In Florida, if a bar serves alcohol to a patron who is visibly intoxicated, the bar is liable for damages caused by that intoxicated patron. Usually this means damages the intoxicated patron causes in a drunk driving auto accident.
A recent case from New Jersey shows just how this "dram shop" liability works. The drunk driver is still liable for their own actions, but a bar that served them and contributed to the eventual accident is liable also. In this case, a drunk driver crashed into a telephone pole after being served at a local bar while already intoxicated.
The jury found that the passenger in the drunk driver's car had sustained $4.1 million in damages. The jury also found that the drunk driver was 80% responsible for those damages, but the bar that served her was 20% responsible. This meant that the bar owed the passenger around $800,000.
Miami car accident attorneys note that the reason many plaintiffs use dram shop actions against bars is that drunk drivers often have inadequate or no insurance and not much in the way of assets. Bars, however, typically have insurance to pay dram shop claims.
That was the situation in the New Jersey case. The driver had minimal insurance, so there was not much hope of recovering damages from her.
The accident took place in October of 2008. The intoxicated woman was served at the bar, she left and picked up the passenger. Within minutes, she had crashed the car. The passenger has been in the hospital and then confined to a rehabilitation center ever since.
Ironically, the passenger had given up driving because of the high cost of auto insurance.
Source: northjersey.com "South Hackensack bar ordered to pay $800,000 under crash suit" 1/31/2011