Paraplegic Man Receives $6.6 Million Settlement from Two Bars That Served Him Alcohol
By Dean I. Weitzman, Esq. on December 13th, 2013
An East Stroudsburg, Pa., man has received a $6.6 million settlement from two bars that served him alcohol before he drove drunk and crashed his vehicle into a tree.
The man, Jason Mercado, had played team softball before the crash in May of 2010 and went drinking with his friends after the game, according to a Dec. 11 story in The Legal Intelligencer. Mercado had filed a dram shop action against the two bars, alleging that they should not have continued to serve him after he became visibly intoxicated.
One of the servers at the first bar, Pub 570 of East Stroudsburg, Pa., was his friend, however, and “gave him free drinks and served him and his friends several beers and shots, according to court documents,” the story reported. “A hostess and another bartender testified Mercado appeared drunk,” according to a memorandum filed by the plaintiffs.
The bartender continued to serve Mercado alcohol even after he told her that he was very drunk, and she told him that she would give him a ride home, the story reported. The bartender then later drove him to a second bar where he appeared “visibly intoxicated, according to court documents, but he was served another one or two beers anyway.”
Mercado later fell asleep at the second bar, Sticks N Stones Bar & Grill of East Stroudsburg, but awakened later and was unable to find his friends, the report stated. He found his car keys on a table nearby and began to drive home, the story reported. Soon after, he crashed his Jeep into a tree, causing a neck fracture that left him a paraplegic.
Mercado received $5.65 million from Pub 570 and $950,000 from Sticks N Stones Bar & Grill to settle his claims. The plaintiff alleged in his damages claim that the owners of both bars had told the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board when applying for liquor licenses that they would be managing the bars but that on the night of the incident, neither own was present, the story reported. Instead, “allegedly inexperienced bartenders and staff were running the operations,” the story said.
The case is an unusual one certainly, because the plaintiff injured himself by driving drunk. But at the same time, under dram shop laws, bar owners and other people who make a profit selling alcohol are responsible for the consequences of continuing to serve alcohol to someone who is over the limit. Dram laws also apply if the person who is served alcohol is underage. By serving additional drinks to someone and then allowing them to leave the establishment in that condition, tavern owners can be held responsible for injuries to others. If a person is visibly intoxicated, the law says that a tavern owner should cease serving alcohol at that point.
Pennsylvania’s Dram shop liability law is named for a “dram shop,” which is a 1700’s term for a tavern that sold alcoholic drinks by the then-popular dram, which is a small unit of measure. The dram laws are there to help victims and their families when they are hugely impacted through the deaths of loved ones at the hands of drunk drivers whose drinking binges are not halted by the keen observations of restaurant and bar staff members in a moment’s notice. Dram shop rules exist to protect society as a whole and to punish bars and restaurants that continue to serve alcohol to customers who are already intoxicated.
Tavern owners must know that continuing to serve patrons once they are intoxicated is not acceptable, and that they will be held accountable. In this case, under these very unusual conditions, the dram shop laws were upheld.
With the holidays here, this case is a stark reminder of the dangers of drinking and driving as well.
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