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High Court Hears Appeal on Bar Owners and Maryland DUI Accidents | Nickelsporn & Lundin, P.C.
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Should Bars Be Responsible For Maryland Drunk Driving Accidents? High Court to Decide

Beers: 17. Speed: 88. Result: 1 dead.

When a drunken man in Maryland got behind the wheel and crashed into another car on Interstate 270, he killed a 10-year-old girl and injured her older sister and grandparents.

Michael Eaton was found guilty of vehicular manslaughter and was sentenced to an eight-year term for the 2008 Maryland car crash that devastated the Warr family.

Now the Maryland Court of Appeals is hearing testimony on whether or not the Gaithersburg bar that served Eaton should be punished as well.

The Warr family first attempted to sue the Dogfish Head Alehouse in 2010. The initial lawsuit was dismissed, but now it’s appeal is stirring up a lively discussion in the high courts.

The big question is whether or not the state of Maryland should hold bars or other establishments responsible for the actions of their customers after those customers leave the premises.

This is commonly referred to as “dram shop” law or liability. A dram shop refers to any establishment that sells liquor to be consumed on the premises. This includes bars, taverns, lounges, and even many restaurants.

Currently, 43 states have a dram shop liability rule in place. Such a law states that no employee of a dram shop may sell liquor to a customer who is already “visibly drunk.” If they do, then that business may be held liable for any damage that the customer causes to another person after leaving the premises.

Maryland currently has no such law. Neither does nearby Delaware or Virginia. However, if the Court of Appeals rules in favor of the Warrs, the Dogfish bar could be required to pay damages for the pain and suffering Eaton caused in the Maryland drunk driving accident after leaving the bar.

It could also mean the beginning of dram shop liability in Maryland. For that reason, the case has sparked a lot of interest—and controversy.

Bar owners say it would be difficult to keep track of each customer’s alcohol intake and that it’s not fair to hold them responsible once the customer has left.

Victim’s advocates, including Mothers Against Drunk Driving, hope that such a law would cut down on the number of drunk driving accidents in Maryland.

If you or someone you know has been the victim of a Maryland car crash in which alcohol was involved, you should talk to an experienced Maryland accident attorney regarding your rights. Call Nickelsporn & Lundin at 800-875-9700.


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