Drunk drivers and violent drunks frequently do not have sufficient insurance or assets with which to pay judgments against them for the injuries and damages they cause.
Fortunately, Tennessee law holds sellers of alcohol responsible for their careless or reckless sales of alcohol in certain situations. If a nightclub, restaurant, or retail store sells alcohol to a person under the age of 21 or to a visibly intoxicated person, and if that sale of alcohol is the proximate cause of the injuries for which compensation is sought, then the seller of alcohol is liable for the injuries and damages caused by its carelessness or recklessness in the sale of alcohol. In some cases, a seller of alcohol may be subject to punitive damages if its conduct was particularly egregious, as was the case in a recent liquor liability lawsuit in Rutherford County, Tennessee, where my client obtained a judgment of more than $10,000,000.00 against a billion-dollar casual-dining chain that served a grossly excessive amount of alcohol to a highly intoxicated customer.
This type of case, often referred to as a "dram shop" case, often is won or lost on the plaintiff's ability to extract from the defendant (the nightclub or other seller of alcohol) evidence of how much alcohol it served to a drunk driver or violent drunk. Because drunk drivers and violent drunks often are subject to criminal prosecutions for their actions, they frequently exercise their Constitutional right not to testify regarding their level of intoxication. Thus, the plaintiff in a dram shop case must obtain and carefully review the sales receipts, computer records, and other documentary evidence of how much alcohol the nightclub served to the minor or visibly intoxicated patron. In addition, there may be extremely helpful evidence in the nightclub's own surveillance videos.
Because evidence of alcoholic beverages sold by nightclubs and restaurants tends to disappear over time, dram shop cases must be pursued vigorously and as soon as possible after an injury is sustained.
I have handled a number of lawsuits against nightclubs or restaurants, and I know where to look for helpful evidence and how to work with experts such as toxicologists in order to prove a dram shop case. In addition, I am familiar with the laws that regulate the hiring and conduct of security guards or "bouncers" often employed by nightclubs, and have been able to use that knowledge to the benefit of my clients.
Drunk driving and drunk violence inflict devastating injuries on their victims. The bars, nightclubs, and other companies that profit from the irresponsible sale of alcohol should be held accountable for their actions, which is what a Tennessee jury and judge did in the case against the restaurant company mentioned above. To learn more about how you can help hold sellers of alcohol accountable for overservice, please contact me or request a free evaluation of your case.