The Court of Common Pleas in Chester County, Pennsylvania, has sent a clear message to bar owners by issuing a $6.8 million dollar verdict to a woman who was injured by a drunk driver. The young woman was seriously injured when a drunk driver, driving down the wrong side of the road, hit the woman's vehicle in a head-on collision. The drunk driver had been drinking at a restaurant in Coatesville and even though he was visibly intoxicated, the staff continued to serve him alcohol. By some accounts, in a two-hour time frame he drank 12 beers and had a shot of liquor.
What Pennsylvania's Dram Shop Law Means for Injured Motorists
Pennsylvania law states that bar and tavern owners can be held liable in cases in which they have continued to serve alcohol to an obviously drunk person who then goes on to kill or injure someone else. This type of law is a called a dram shop law, and every state has some form of this legislation that seeks to deter bars from serving drunk people and then letting them walk out the door.
In order for an establishment to be held liable for a drunk driving accident, a victim has to prove that staff at the bar continued to serve someone alcohol when the staff knew or should have known that the patron was intoxicated. In essence, the Pennsylvania legislature has determined that bar and tavern owners have a duty to citizens to act responsibly and to contribute to keeping the streets safe through responsible alcohol service.
While no amount of money can compensate for everything the young woman has been through - broken bones throughout her legs, multiple surgeries, continued pain when walking and the loss of her job - this type of verdict should help to deter other bar and tavern owners from making the same mistake.