Bar Cited After Customers Die in DUI Collision

Posted by Jon Ibanez on March 16th, 2015

Two bars in Cleveland, Ohio have been cited for serving customers alcohol who later crashed their vehicles and died, according to Fox8 Cleveland.

In September, 2014, 22-year old Brandyn Pino was ordered to leave Aces Depot, a bar in Olmsted Falls. Shortly after being kicked out, Pino crashed his vehicle a mile away from the bar where he died.

“They had no problem taking my son’s money, but then they throw him out and let him drive,” Cindy Pino, Brandyn’s mother, told Fox8 Cleveland. “Something needs to be done. Something has to be changed.”

A second bar, Dusty’s Tavern, is alleged to have over served 51-year old Joel Schwartz alcohol this past January. After leaving the bar, Schwartz crashed his vehicle two miles away and later died.

“Any time there is an administrative citation against a bar, it is forwarded to the Ohio Liquor Control Commission,” Greg Croft, Ohio Investigative Unit Agent in Charge told Fox8 Cleveland. “There will be a hearing and they can be fined, suspended, or even face a revocation.”

The Ohio Investigative Unit subsequently cited both bars.

“Liquor establishments are supposed to serve responsibly,” Croft said. “In the state of Ohio, the laws are pretty specific; you can’t serve past the point of intoxication.” The county prosecutor will also be reviewing the incidences to determine if criminal charges should be filed.

I can understand a bar being cited if they over serve a customer which leads to, say, alcohol poisoning. But, here, there is a disconnect between serving a person alcohol and a subsequent DUI collision. California law sees it the same way.

While other states such as Ohio may hold a bar liable for injuries caused by a drunk driving customer, in California it is the customer’s willful decision to drink and then drive which is the cause of any subsequent DUI collision. Thus, in California, bars and restaurants are shielded from liability when a customer over drinks, drives away, and causes injury or damage.

California’s “Dram Shop Laws” (California Civil Code section 1714) read as follows:

(b) It is the intent of the Legislature to . . . reinstate the prior judicial interpretation of this section as it relates to proximate cause for injuries incurred as a result of furnishing alcoholic beverages to an intoxicated person, namely that the furnishing of alcoholic beverages is not the proximate cause of injuries resulting from intoxication, but rather the consumption of alcoholic beverages is the proximate cause of injuries inflicted upon another by an intoxicated person.

(c) Except as provided in subdivision (d), no social host who furnishes alcoholic beverages to any person may be held legally accountable for damages suffered by that person, or for injury to the person or property of, or death of, any third person, resulting from the consumption of those beverages.

(d) Nothing in subdivision (c) shall preclude a claim against a parent, guardian, or another adult who knowingly furnishes alcoholic beverages at his or her residence to a person under 21 years of age, in which case, notwithstanding subdivision (b), the furnishing of the alcoholic beverage may be found to be the proximate cause of resulting injuries or death.

As you can see, the laws are different if the customer is under the age of 21. It is the responsibility of bar to ensure that their customers are of legal drinking age before serving them alcohol. People under the age of 21 are legally deemed incapable of making good decisions regarding alcohol use…like the decision not to drive after drinking at a bar.

While California’s law differ from other states with respect to civil liability, like Ohio, a bar may be held criminally liable if they serve alcohol to an “obviously intoxicated person.”

According to California Business and Professions Code section 25602(a), “Every person who sells, furnishes, gives, or causes to be sold, furnished, or given away, any alcoholic beverage to any habitual or common drunkard or to any obviously intoxicated person is guilty of a misdemeanor."

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