A client comes into the office after being severely injured by a drunk driver. He wanted to know if he can make a claim against the bar that served the driver enough drinks to get her drunk. I told him it depends on the facts. Here is the story.
A woman is at Flanigan's, when I was a kid it was called "Big Daddy's" Bar and Grill. She drinks too much. Flanigan's employees cut the customer off and serve her water in an effort to sober her up. She leaves Flanigan's. Later that night she is driving, crosses into an on coming lane of traffic and hits the client's vehicle causing injuries.
Can Flanigan's be held responsible for the Accident?
Florida law is different than a lot of states' laws regarding a restaurant or bar's responsibility for allegedly over serving a customer who ends up hurting another person. In most states a restaurant or bar can be held responsible for negligence in over serving the customer or not recognizing the customer is drunk. In Florida, a bar or restaurant can over serve a customer with impunity.
The only way that we can hold the bar responsible for the client's injuries is showing that the bar served a minor or knowingly served a person habitually addicted to alcohol. The law can be found here. So, we need to determine if the driver was underage or an alcoholic, and if an alcoholic, that the bar or restaurant should have known.
The Flanigan's Case
In the Flanigan's case cited above. The facts did not support a claim that would fit into Florida Statute 768.125, so the injured person's lawyer tried to argue that Flanigan's was responsible because it "undertook the duty" to the injured person because it "cut" the customer off and had internal restaurant policies that its employees should call a cab for intoxicated customers. The Third DCA did not buy the injured person's argument and found that he could not bring a claim against Flanigan's.
My answer to the Client
He may have a case against the business that over served the driver in his case if the driver was a frequent customer of the establishment and is habitually addicted to alcohol, or if the driver is a minor. Because bringing an alcohol related claim is complicated, the facts and circumstances of the intoxication need to be developed as soon as practical.