Our firm has handled numerous lawsuits against bar owners who have overserved drunk customers knowing the customer would likely soon be driving. This month, the Georgia Supreme Court rendered a positive ruling for the victims of these crimes.
When people are injured by drunk drivers in Georgia, the biggest challenge is often finding enough insurance to pay for the victim’s medical bills. These cases are brought in Georgia under the Dramshop Act, “dramshop” being a Little House on the Prairie era term for bar. Bars are the typical target but the laws also apply to any business selling alcohol to people who appear intoxicated and will likely soon be driving. Click on the photo to watch the oral argument by the Plaintiff’s lawyer before the Georgia Supreme Court.
Last year, the victims of these drunk drivers were dealt a blow when the Georgia Court of Appeals ruled that Convenience stores and the like were not subject to the law and therefore could not be sued. Happily, earlier this month, the Georgia Supreme Court in the Flores et al. v. Exprezit Stores decision reversed the lower Court and held that anyone selling alcohol can be held civilly responsible if they violate the Georgia Dramshop Act.
In this tragic case, the drunk driver walked into the convenience store, looking noticeably drunk and bought a 12 pack of beer. He drank the beer and later that night crossed over the centerline and hit a van, killing six people. He was a .18 Blood alcohol level when he was arrested.
Why does this all matter? Because we often represent victims of drunk drivers who face lifelong disabilities that they cannot afford to pay for. In cases where the store selling the booze could tell the buyer was drunk and would likely be driving soon, they should be held partially responsible for putting the drunk driver on the road and share in the responsibility of compensation. Let’s face it, most people hit by a drunk driver in Atlanta quickly learn that drunk drivers don’t carry much insurance.