What Are the Rights of Victims of DUI and Dram Shop Laws in Arizona?
This article focuses on the rights of Victims of DUI and Dram Shop laws in Arizona. These rights and laws focus on keeping people safe and eliminating DUI victims. Although there are widespread campaigns to warn against the dangers of drinking and driving, many people still participate in this negligent behavior.
As such, victims of DUI should know their rights. As reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in Arizona, 1.7 percent of drivers admitted that they have driven after having too much to drink. Nationally, 1.9 percent drivers have admitted to drinking too much and then driving. When someone over drinks at a bar, dram shop laws are there to protect them. Further, while over 1 million drivers were arrested for driving under the influence in 2016, data shows this only accounts for 1 percent of the 111 million people who admitted to driving after having too much to drink.
As the data shows, too many people remain a victim of DUI drivers. It is important to know a victim of DUI’s rights.
According to data from the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration (NHTSA) in 2016 there were 10,497 fatalities resulting from drunk driving accidents. These accidents accounted for 28 percent of all traffic fatalities for that year. The number of alcohol related fatal accidents increased to 10,874 in 2017, which accounted for 29 percent of all traffic fatalities for that year. In addition to the high percent of alcohol related accidents resulting in deaths, another approximately 350,000 people are criminally injured by drunk drivers each year.
These statistics are alarming. If you or a loved one has been injured in an accident involving a drunk driver it is important to know your rights, as being involved in an accident with an impaired driver can have devastating and unforeseen consequences for a person and their family.
The injury attorneys at Phoenix Accident and Injury Law Firm in Phoenix have significant experience in helping clients who have been victims of DUI and dram shop laws. If you need help filing a claim for one of these awful, life changing accidents, we are here to help you get the compensation you deserve. Our offices are conveniently located in Chandler, Peoria, and North Phoenix, and we can meet in-person or over the phone or video call. You can contact us for a free consultation, or read on to find out more.
By the way, we will also help with other problems that have cost you sleep, like getting a rental car very soon and finding a nearby doctor or psychiatrist who can help get your life back on track. Even the best legal team isn’t good enough if your quality of life isn’t sustainable while justice and compensation are on the way. The whole point of legal action is to regain quality of life, so we help you long-term as attorneys and short-term as your go-to people. Our familiarity with the local Phoenix courts makes us confident that we can help you get the best settlement possible.
If you are unsure whether or not you can afford an attorney, don’t worry. We only get paid when you settle. Check out our Attorney Fees Calculator to find out more.
What Are the Rights of a Victim of DUI and Dram Shop Law in Arizona?
In an effort to combat driving under the influence, the Arizona legislature has not only enacted strict DUI laws to punish the individual who operates a motorized vehicle while intoxicated, but they have also passed laws to punish establishments, such as restaurants, bars, and stores, that over serve patrons, and, or sell liquor to an already intoxicated individual or minors. These laws are referred to as dram shop laws.
FAQs About The Rights of Victims of DUI.
Arizona’s Dram Shop Laws
Arguably, it had been the policy and law in Arizona that a person or business that had sold or furnished alcohol to a person who later caused a car accident was not civilly liable for any resulting harm that occurred as a result of the intoxicated person’s behavior. (See, Estate of Hernandez by Hernandez-Wheeler for and on Behalf of Hernandez v. Arizona Bd. of Regents, 866 P.2d 1330, 177 Ariz. 244 (Ariz., 1994), See, e.g., Lewis v. Wolf, 122 Ariz. 567, (1979); Profitt v. Canez, 118 Ariz. 235,(1978).)
However, after quite a few cases, that law has changed. Read on discover the current law in Arizona.
Is A Bar Owner Responsible For The Person Who Was Driving Drunk After Leaving the Bar?
A Summary of Arizona’s Rights for Victims of DUI and Dram Shop Laws.
The short answer is Yes. Since 1983, Arizona has held bar owners responsible for bar patrons’ behavior if it resulted in drunk driving after leaving their establishment. Here is how those laws came into effect.
In the 1983 case of Ontiveros v. Borak when the Supreme Court of Arizona held that a tavern owner could be held liable to third parties who were injured by an intoxicated patron. (Ontiveros v. Borak, 136 Ariz. 500, 667 P.2d 200 (1983).) In Ontiveros, the court noted that it is almost always foreseeable that drinking and driving can lead to a car accident, stating “certainly no court can say as a matter of law that there can never be a causal relation between serving liquor to an underaged, incompetent or already intoxicated patron and the subsequent accident in which that patron becomes involved when he or she leaves the premises.” (Id.)
While the court acknowledged that “the general rule [in Arizona] is that a defendant may be held liable if his conduct contributed to the result and if that result would not have occurred “but for” defendant’s conduct”, it went on to say that [t]here are some dram shop cases where it would be possible to say as a matter of law that the defendant’s acts did not contribute to the result, and there are other cases,, where cause-in-fact remains a question for the jury.” (Id.)
Ultimately, it would be a question for the jury to decide who should be held liable in such cases. The Arizona Supreme Court therefore concluded that other parties “may be held liable when they sell liquor to an intoxicated patron or customer under circumstances where the licensee or his employees know or should know that such conduct creates an unreasonable risk of harm to others who may be injured either on or off the premises.” (Ontiveros v. Borak, 136 Ariz. 500, 667 P.2d 200 (1983).) Thus opening the door for third party liability.
This decision overturned the 1945 year old holding in Collier v. Stamatis, where the court affirmed the lower court’s decision dismissing a case for failure to state a cause of action when a tavern sold intoxicating drinks to a minor who was later arrested and deemed a juvenile delinquent. It was held that the tavern was not responsible for the subsequent illegal acts of its patrons. (Collier v. Stamatis, 162 P.2d 125 (Ariz.1945).)
Arizona Dram Shop Laws Codified
In addition to the Arizona Supreme Court recognizing dram shop laws, the Arizona legislature adopted Arizona Revised Statute § 4-301 in 1985. This statute codifies a social hosts’ responsibility and civil liability with regards to serving alcohol.
Subsequently, in 1986, the Arizona legislature enacted two more statutes, Arizona Revised Statute Sections 4-311 and 4-312, which deal with the issue of a licensees’, or business’ responsibilities and liabilities in regards to serving intoxicated patrons and minors, and the limitations of such liabilities. These statutes taken together are what are commonly referred to as dram shop laws. Notably, A.R.S. Sections 4-301 and 4-312 serve to limit liability, while A.R.S. § 4-311 assigns liability and legal presumptions of fault.
Social Host Liability Limitation of Dram Shop Laws
Arizona Revised Statute § 4-301 reads:
A person other than a licensee or an employee of a licensee acting during the employee’s working hours or in connection with such employment is not liable in damages to any person who is injured, or to the survivors of any person killed, or for damage to property, which is alleged to have been caused in whole or in part by reason of the furnishing or serving of spirituous liquor to a person of the legal drinking age. (Arizona Revised Statutes § 4-301.)
Significantly, this statute refers only to social hosts’ liability limitations and does not apply to a licensee, or those in the business of serving, selling, or furnishing alcohol. This statute was enacted before the other Dram Shop laws were codified by the Arizona legislature in part to limit the Arizona Supreme Court’s ruling in Ontiveros, which, as noted above, was the first case to hold that a licensee could be held civilly liable for harm caused by an intoxicated patron it had served. (See, e.g. Estate of Hernandez by Hernandez-Wheeler for and on Behalf of Hernandez v. Arizona Bd. of Regents, 866 P.2d 1330, 177 Ariz. 244 (Ariz., 1994).)
Of additional consequence is that A.R.S. § 4-301 only applies to limit the liability of non-licensee social hosts when they serve or furnish alcoholic beverages to a “person of legal drinking age.” The statute does not apply to protect from civil liability social hosts who serve minors and does not protect establishments who may have not served minors but who were negligent in their storage of alcohol to prevent minors from acquiring it. (See, e.g. Estate of Hernandez by Hernandez-Wheeler for and on Behalf of Hernandez v. Arizona Bd. of Regents, 866 P.2d 1330, 177 Ariz. 244 (Ariz., 1994); Petolicchio v. Santa Cruz County Fair and Rodeo Ass’n, Inc., 866 P.2d 1342, 177 Ariz. 256 (Ariz., 1994); Young Through Young v. DFW Corp., 908 P.2d 1, 184 Ariz. 187 (Ariz. App., 1995).)
Is A Fraternity, Sorority, Neighborhood Association Responsible for Overserving At a Party?
Arizona Revised Statute 4-301 Says Dram Shop Laws Do Not Apply.
The short answer is No. In Arizona, only a licensee who regularly serves, sells and distributions liquor can be held responsible for the overserving of a patron. This issue was tested when a fraternity member was overserved at a house party on campus and went on to harm himself and others.
Arizona Revised Statute § 4-301 was challenged in Estate of Hernandez by Hernandez-Wheeler for and on Behalf of Hernandez v. Arizona Bd. of Regent, when the defendants claimed that A.R.S.§ 4-301 was implicitly repealed by the subsequent passage of A.R.S. §§ 4-311 and 4-312.
The defendants argued that A.R.S. § 4-312 also limits civil liability for third parties who supplied alcohol to an individual who was later involved in a car crash, and that as a result A.R.S. § 4-312 is in conflict with A.R.S. § 4-301.
Defendants therefore claimed that for the court to entertain a case based on a violation of A.R.S § 3-401 they would be usurping the legislature’s function. (Id.) However the court did not agree, noting that absent an express repeal of a statute, courts favor finding union between laws, stating, “whenever possible, this court interprets two apparently conflicting statutes in a way that harmonizes them and gives rational meaning to both.  We can do so here with a construction that both fulfills legislative intent and furthers legislative goals.” (Id.)
The court found that the legislative scheme of the statutes, the plain language of the statues, and the legislative intent all favored finding the statues as complementing each other. Of further significance is that the plain language of A.R.S. § 4-301 applies to limit civil liability only for social hosts. The court stated, “The statutory immunity granted by § 4-301 applies only when a non-licensee furnishes alcohol to “a person of legal drinking age” and in the case of Estate of Hernandez the defendants were social hosts who furnished alcohol to a minor (Id.)
Thus clarifying the differences and applications for the statues limiting civil liability for third parties furnishing alcohol to an individual who later causes an accident and harm due to driving while intoxicated, such that A.R.S. § 4-301 serves to limit civil liability to social hosts, and not to licensees, and only in instances where the intoxicated driver is an adult, not a minor.
How Do You Prove a Bar Owner Was Liable for Serving an Intoxicated Person or Minor?
Arizona Revised Statute § 4-311 details in which situations a licensee may be held liable to the victim of a DUI accident for property damage and personal injuries, and in the event that the victim dies as a result of the crash, details licensee liability to a person who is able to bring a wrongful death action pursuant to Arizona Revised Statute § 12-612.
A.R.S. 4-311 states that a licensee may be held civilly liable if the court or jury finds:
- The licensee sold spirituous liquor either to a purchaser who was obviously intoxicated, or to a purchaser under the legal drinking age without requesting identification containing proof of age or with knowledge that the person was under the legal drinking age. (Arizona Revised Statute § 4-311(1).)
- The purchaser consumed the spirituous liquor sold by the licensee. (Arizona Revised Statute § 4-311(2).)
- The consumption of spirituous liquor was a proximate cause of the injury, death or property damage. (Arizona Revised Statute § 4-311(3).)
While this statute outlines who may be held civilly liable for damages resulting from an intoxicated driver causing an accident, of note is that it still contains limitations in so far as it only applies to licensees. Licensees are establishments that have a valid licensee from the state of Arizona to sell, distribute, or furnish alcohol in some capacity.
Of additional consequence is that this law also contains some limitations to protect licensees, saying in relevant part that “[n]o licensee is chargeable with knowledge of previous acts by which a person becomes intoxicated at other locations unknown to the licensee unless the person was obviously intoxicated.” (A.R.S. § 4-311(B).) A.R.S. defines “obviously intoxicated” in subsection D.
“’[O]obviously intoxicated” means inebriated to such an extent that a person’s physical faculties are substantially impaired and the impairment is shown by significantly uncoordinated physical action or significant physical dysfunction that would have been obvious to a reasonable person.” (A.R.S. § 4-311(D).)
In addition to placing some limitations on the situations in which a licensee may be held accountable for an intoxicated customers subsequent actions, A.R.S.§ 4-311 also makes some assumptions that disfavor the licensee. In relevant part it states that “if it is found that an underage person purchased spirituous liquor from a licensee and such underage person incurs or causes injuries or property damage as a result of the consumption of spirituous liquor within a reasonable period of time following the sale of the spirituous liquor, it shall create a rebuttable presumption that the underage person consumed the spirituous liquor sold to such person by the licensee.” (A.R.S. § 4-311(C).)
In a criminal and civil case, the burden of proof is generally on the party filing the claim to prove that all elements of claim have been met. Thus, A.R.S. § 4-311(C) is important because it shifts the burden of proof to the licensee to disprove that their act of selling intoxicating beverages to an underage person was a cause in any subsequent incident that caused harm to another.
Importantly, a licensee who sells alcohol to a minor or anyone who furnishes alcohol to a person not of legal drinking age without their parents or guardians consent, except when the minor is employed to sell alcohol, is guilty of a misdemeanor. (A.R.S. § 4-244(9).)
Licensee Liability Limitations
Arizona Revised Statute § 4-312, places limitations on a licensee’s civil liability to victims harmed by an intoxicated driver. It states:
- A licensee is not liable in damages to any consumer or purchaser of spirituous liquor over the legal drinking age who is injured or whose property is damaged, or to survivors of such a person, if the injury or damage is alleged to have been caused in whole or in part by reason of the sale, furnishing or serving of spirituous liquor to that person.
- A licensee is not liable in damages to any other adult person who is injured or whose property is damaged, or to the survivors of such a person, who was present with the person who consumed the spirituous liquor at the time the spirituous liquor was consumed and who knew of the impaired condition of the person, if the injury or damage is alleged to have been caused in whole or in part by reason of the sale, furnishing or serving of spirituous liquor. (A. R. S. § 4-312(1).)
- Subject to the provisions of subsection A of this section and except as provided in section 4-311, a person, firm, corporation or licensee is not liable in damages to any person who is injured, or to the survivors of any person killed, or for damage to property which is alleged to have been caused in whole or in part by reason of the sale, furnishing or serving of spirituous liquor. (A. R. S. § 4-312(2).)
Subsection A is important because it limits who can be a victim of DUI accident, to those who were not “present with the person who consumed the spirituous liquor at the time the spirituous liquor was consumed and who knew of the impaired condition of the person.” (A.R.S. § 4-312(A).) So if a passenger in the vehicle who consumed alcohol with the driver at a bar was later involved in a crash, the passenger’s recourse would be against the driver as they cannot hold the licensee accountable by statute. Although, they could arguably have a common law negligence case against the licensee.
In addition, subsection B extends non-liability to person’s working for, or agents of the licensee who provided the intoxicated individual with alcohol.
Arizona Revised Statute 4-312 Challenged
Arizona Revised Statute § 4-312(B) was challenged in the 1995 case of Young Through Young v. DFW Corp. and was held unconstitutional. (Young Through Young v. DFW Corp., 908 P.2d 1, 184 Ariz. 187 (Ariz. App.,1995).)
The issue in Young Through Young, was whether, contrary to the Arizona Constitution, A.R.S. § 4-312(B) abrogated a victims right to recover damages from a licensee because it limited legal actions to those listed in A.R.S. § 4-311, which required that in order for a licensee to be held liable for damages resulting from over-serving an intoxicated patron, the patron must have been “obviously intoxicated.”
The victim argued that a patron could go to a bar, drink a lot in a short period of time and leave before exhibiting signs of intoxication or impairment, thereby alleviating licensee liability. Another scenario could be like that in Young Through Young were a licensee or its employees could not discern whether a patron was obviously intoxicated because they had no context by which to judge the patrons behavior in so far as they might not have had an opportunity to witness the patron sober, but should have had a reasonable idea that someone had been served enough alcohol to impair their judgment when they drank a lot in a short period of time.
In Young Through Young, the court found that the language of A.R.S. § 4-312(B) did in fact abrogate a DUI victims rights, thereby violating Article 18, section 6 of the Arizona Constitution which states that “[t]he right of action to recover damages for injuries shall never be abrogated, and the amount recovered shall not be subject to any statutory limitation.” (Article 18, section 6 of the Arizona Constitution.)
The Young Through Young court notes that in Barrio v. San Manuel Div. Hosp. the Arizona Supreme Court “adopted a test of “reasonable alternatives” for distinguishing between legislative regulation and abrogation. The legislature may regulate the cause of action for negligence so long as it leaves a claimant reasonable alternatives or choices which will enable him or her to bring the action. It may not, under the guise of “regulation,” so affect the fundamental right to sue for damages as to effectively deprive the claimant of the ability to bring the action. (Barrio v. San Manuel Div. Hosp., 143 Ariz. 101, (1984).)
The Young Through Young Court, stated:
[T]hat section 4-312(B) fails to afford plaintiffs such as Young a reasonable alternative to the general negligence action recognized in Ontiveros when they are injured by a driver that the licensee knows or should know is intoxicated, but the driver is not “obviously intoxicated” as defined by section 4-311(C).
By limiting licensee liability to section 4-311, section 4-312(B) does not merely “regulat[e] the mode, method, and procedure to be followed in pursuing the cause of action … [but] completely deprive[s] many who have sustained real injury of judicial remedy,” (Boswell, 152 Ariz. at 19, 730 P.2d at 196), and imposes the type of “insurmountable defense” constructed by legislative act that our supreme court condemned in Barrio. (143 Ariz. at 106, 692 P.2d at 285).
The court therefore held that section 4-312(B) was unconstitutional because it abrogates the general negligence cause of action recognized in Ontiveros. The court did note that the holding did not include a finding holding that either section 4-311 or its definition of “obviously intoxicated” in subsection C were unconstitutional as neither party raised it as an issue. (Young Through Young v. DFW Corp., 908 P.2d 1, 184 Ariz. 187 (Ariz. App., 1995).)
Notes on Common Law and Statutory Dram Shop Civil Liability Limitations
While A.R.S. §§ 4-301 and 4-312 serve to limit the civil liability of certain parties who furnish or sell alcohol to certain statutorily named and defined individuals, a business may be held liable on other grounds than those outlined under the statutory scheme of the dram shop laws.
In Petolicchio v. Santa Cruz County Fair the issue was whether a licensee was civilly responsible for the death of a minor who was killed in a drunk driving car accident when the driver had routinely stolen alcohol from the licensee and the licensee was on notice of the habitual thefts but did nothing to stop them and prevent the minor from accessing the liquor. (Petolicchio v. Santa Cruz County Fair, 866 P.2d 1342 (Ariz.1994).)
The defendant argued that it was not liable under A.R.S. § 4-311 because it did not actually sell alcohol to a minor. While the court determined that the defendant could not be held liable under A.R.S. § 4-311, because, as it stated.
For dram shop liability to exist under § 4-311, the licensee must sell alcohol to a purchaser who is either intoxicated or under the legal drinking age. Obviously, no such commercial sale occurred here. We do not now address how narrowly or broadly the term “sold” should be interpreted. Suffice it to say again that under any rational meaning of the term, the liquor here was not sold. Defendants were not acting as licensees in this transaction–even unlicensed persons may store alcohol. Moreover, [the deceased] certainly was no purchaser–he was alleged to be a thief. Thus, we conclude that A.R.S. § 4-311 does not apply. (Id.)
However, the court in Petolicchio did go on to find that the licensee could still be held civilly liable for the minor’s death under a common law legal theory of negligence as established in Ontiveros because the licensee was on notice of the thefts, aware that that the alcohol was being taken and consumed by minors, and had a duty to prevent foreseeable harm. (Ontiveros v. Borak, 136 Ariz. 500, 667 P.2d 200 (1983).)
Statute of Limitations For Dram Shop Liability as Defined By Statute Versus For Common Law Negligence
It should also be noted that there is a different statute of limitations for civil liability in a case based on the common law theory of negligence and the statutory scheme adopted by the Arizona legislature on dram shop liability. An individual filing a claim under the common law theory of dram shop liability has two years from the time of injury in which to file their claim, while an individual filing a cause of action based on the statutory scheme for dram shop liability has a year do so. (See, ANDREWS, EX REL. WOODARD v. Eddie’s Place, 16 P.3d 801, 199 Ariz. 240 (Ariz. App., 2000).)
In ANDREWS, EX REL. WOODARD a woman sued a tavern under A.R.S. § 4-311 and under a common law theory of negligence because the tavern continued to serve an intoxicated patron who later caused a car accident with the plaintiff, thereby injuring plaintiff and her daughter. The plaintiff filed her legal claim within two years of the accident. While the trial court dismissed the case because it said she did not file her statutory claim within the one year statute of limitations, the appellate court reversed the lower court’s decision to dismiss plaintiff’s claim because she had filed her claim, which it noted had common law elements, against the tavern within two years after the accident.
This is a result of some statutory legal claims being held to a one year statute of limitation under Arizona Revised Statute § 12-541(5). However, this statute does not apply to common law liability based on negligence. As the court in ANDREWS, EX REL. WOODARD v. Eddie’s Place, stated “the one-year statute of limitations in § 12-541(5) does not apply. Section 12-541(5) does not “include or extend to actions arising under the common law” but applies only “where a liability would not exist but for a statute.” (Id.)
Dram Shop Liability at Casinos
Dram shop liability does not extend to Indian reservations or casinos on those reservations. In Filer v. Tohono O’Odham Nation Gaming, the Arizona Court of Appeals held that because Indian reservations are a sovereign nation, casinos on their land cannot be held liable for civil actions unless they expressly waive their sovereign immunity. (Filer v. Tohono O’Odham Nation Gaming, 129 P.3d 78 (Ariz. Ct. App. 2006).) This means that an individual who is injured as the result of an intoxicated driver who became intoxicated as a result of being served, or buying alcohol at a casino does not have recourse against the casino because they are operated by the Indian nation on whose land they sit. This immunity extends to employees of the casino who serve alcohol, as detailed in Filer. (Id.)
What Types of Injuries Can a Victim of DUI Receive Compensation?
Victims of drunk driving accidents can seek both compensatory and punitive damages. Compensatory damages are meant to “make the victim whole” by financially compensating them for injuries resulting from the accident. Compensatory damages can be awarded for harms suffered, such as:
- Medical bills
- Lost wages
- Damaged property
- Pain and suffering
In addition to compensatory damages, the victim of a drunk driving accident may also seek punitive damages. These types of damages are meant to punish the wrongdoing for their unlawful behavior, and are generally awarded only when the culprit’s behavior is particularly egregious. These damages are usually awarded at the jury’s discretion and based on how outrageous they find the wrongdoer’s behavior.
If the victim of the drunk driving accident dies as a result of the accident, certain family members or beneficiaries may seek compensation for their loss in what is referred to as a wrongful death lawsuit. In Arizona, the right to pursue a wrongful death lawsuit is granted by statute, including Arizona Revised Statute Sections 12-611, 12-612, and 12-613. To learn more about wrongful death lawsuits visit our page on wrongful death.
Arizona Dram Shop Cases
Below are some examples of Arizona cases where third parties were held liable for over-serving an individual who later was involved in a drunk driving accident. Note that the cases have been taken over a range of time so some awards could be greater today. In all cases however, there are some facts that repeat themselves, such as, the drunk driver being served too much alcohol, and the victim being injured as a result of the accident.
Successful Cases for DUI Victims: The Case Value of a Victim of DUI case.
What is the Value of A DUI and Dram Shop Case?
Below are several cases that have been tried in Arizona courts and discuss the facts leading up to their verdicts.
Essson v. La Puesta Del Sol Party Facility and AYOUB
The victim in this case was a passenger who was riding in a vehicle operated by an AYOUB employee who was driving while intoxicated, after consuming excessive amounts of alcohol at the event hosted by La Puesta. Sadly, the victim was killed in the car accident so the lawsuit was filed by his mother as a wrongful death and dram shop case.
The jury awarded the plaintiff a total of $2.6 million, assessing liability to La Puesta in the amount of $2.1 million, to AYOUB in the amount of $500,000.
Shalley v. A & M Beverages dba Mecca Lounge, McConaha, and Sainsevain
In the 2004 case of Shalley v. A & M Beverages, dba Mecca Lounge, McConaha, and Sainsevain, the plaintiff, who was stopped at a red light, was hit by defendant Sainsevain after Sainsevain had just left Mecca Lounge. The plaintiff alleged that Mecca Lounge continued to serve alcohol to defendant Sainsevain after she was obviously intoxicated. A toxicologist testified her blood alcohol level was .315 at the time of the accident. The jury relieved Mecca Lounge of liability, finding the defendant Sainsevain was 100 percent at fault for the accident, and awarding plaintiff a total of $400,000, breaking down to $200,000 in compensatory damages and $200,000 in punitive damages.
Gomez and Estate of Gomez v. V.I.P. Event Services, Inc.
The victims of this case included a family of three – a mother, father, and daughter. The mother and father died at the accident scene and the daughter was airlifted to a hospital where she was treated for a severe pelvic fracture, internal head injuries, pneumothorax, and other internal injuries. The daughter was in a coma for three days as a result of her injuries.
The daughter filed two wrongful death lawsuits – one on behalf of her mother and one on behalf of her father – against the security staff at the venue where the drunk driver had become intoxicated earlier that night. In addition, the daughter sued the security company on her own behalf, seeking compensation for her injuries.
The drunk driver who caused the accident had attended an event earlier in the evening at Compadre Stadium where he drank an estimated 13 beers, became belligerent, and fought with his girlfriend. The girlfriend testified that her boyfriend’s eyes were glassy the last time she saw him, and that after their altercation she alerted event security about her boyfriend’s behavior and intoxication. However, security did nothing and the drunk driver left the event on his own accord. After leaving the event, the driver stated that he rested in his car for about an hour and a half before driving.
The plaintiff and her parents were driving when the drunk driver ran a red light while speeding, colliding with the plaintiff and her deceased parents. The plaintiff called expert witnesses who testified that the event security were negligent in failing to prevent the drunk driver from driving. They referred to the girlfriend alerting security of her boyfriend’s intoxication and security’s failure to even investigate the situation. Also they stated that for an event of the size the driver was at, there should have been more security present. The expert further stated that the security staff that was onsite was inadequately trained.
After a five day trial and six hours of deliberation, the jury awarded the plaintiff $300,000.00 in compensatory damages for her injuries, and awarded $25,000.00 to the estate of her mother, and $25,000.00 to the estate of her father. The jury also found that the drunk driver was 15 percent at fault, while the security company was 85 percent at fault.
Emmons v. Warner Lambert Company and Moeckel
In this case, the defendant drunk driver (Moeckel) had been at a company party where he consumed large amounts of alcohol. Upon leaving the party, Moeckel got in a car owned by the company and began driving until he caused an accident with plaintiff (Emmons), the victim of the DUI. As a result of the accident, Emmons suffered multiple fractures in her spine, contusions in her abdominal, chest, and heart walls, avulsion and abrasion of the right heel, and abscesses that caused infection and required surgical repair, and monitoring.
The plaintiff contends that while at the party, the defendant was acting in the scope of his employment and the company was negligent by serving Moeckel excessive amounts of alcohol and by allowing Moeckel to drive a company car knowing he had been drinking so much.
The jury returned a verdict in favor of the plaintiff, awarding her $2 million in compensatory damages. Additionally, the plaintiff received an award of punitive damages, however the amount of that award occurred in a settlement between the parties and was not disclosed.
Swartz v. Buzz Funbar Inc., Stafan’s Bar and Simjanowski
In this case, the 23 year-old victim of DUI was killed in the accident, as was the drunk driver. Dram shop laws were the issue in this case. As such, the victim’s divorced parents brought a wrongful death suit on behalf of their deceased son. The deceased was rear-ended by the drunk driver, after the drunk driver left the Buzz Funbar where he had at least six beers in a 45 minute period. At the time of the accident the drunk driver’s blood alcohol level was .16.
The parent, plaintiffs alleged that Buzz Funbar continued to serve the drunk driver even though he showed visible signs of intoxication. Defendant’s Stafan’s Bar and Simjanowski were both dismissed from the case as they stated that the drunk driver had been at their establishments 10 hours prior to the accident and that anything he drank at their businesses would have been metabolized hours before. They called an expert witness toxicologist to testify on their behalf.
Before trial, the plaintiff parents settled with Buzz Funbar for $1 million.
Being the victim of a DUI and dram shop laws can be frightening and overwhelming. Knowing your rights and holding those accountable for your injuries is important not only for you to get closure and the compensation you need, but also to discourage similar behavior from the culprits in the future. Since the law can be complicated, having an experienced attorney assist you through the legal process can be beneficial.
At Phoenix Accident and Injury Law Firm near you, we have more than 15 years of experience helping clients who are victims of DUI and dram shop laws in the Phoenix area. When you’re ready to talk, please contact our office to arrange a free initial consultation by phone or at our Chandler office, conveniently located near you.
If you have been in a DUI accident, contact Phoenix Accident and Injury Law Firm in nearby Chandler, AZ to speak with an experienced personal injury attorney. We provide personal injury legal services to clients in your area including Chandler, Gilbert, Mesa, Scottsdale, Tempe, and Peoria.