Proposed California Law Aims to Reduce Drunk Driving

Posted by Jon Ibanez on March 7th, 2016

Assembly Bill 2121, otherwise known as the “Responsible Interventions for Beverage Servers Training Act,” has been proposed as a means to reduce the number of drunk drivers in California, but not in the way typical DUI legislation hopes to reduce drunk driving.

The law, if passed, would require the servers of alcohol-serving establishments undergo a “responsible interventions for beverage servers” training. Bartenders and servers would be required to intervene when a patron has had too much to drink.

According to the law, servers would have three months to complete a four-hour class after having been hired and would be required to complete “refresher” courses every three years.

Other states currently have similar laws in place.

The law doesn’t contain any language on whether the alcohol-serving establishment can or will be held liable for an over-served patron who causes damage, injury or death as a result of drunk driving.

Many states currently have laws that hold establishments liable for damage caused by accidents, injuries, or deaths as a result of a customer’s drunk driving after they’ve left the establishment.  These laws are known as “Dram Shop Laws.”

States who have enacted Dram Shop Laws, however, differ as to how much liability is imposed. Some states hold an establishment strictly liable if their drunk patron drives and causes damage, injury, or death. This means that the establishment’s service of the alcohol is deemed to be the proximate cause of any damage occurring after the intoxicated person leaves the establishment.

California no longer follows the strict liability standard.

California Civil Code section 1714 provides:

(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.

In other words, California considers the act of drunk driving and any damage, injury or death caused by that drunk driving the direct result of the person making the decision to drink and drive, not the result of the establishment who served the alcohol.

California law, however, is different if the person served is under the age of 21. An establishment who serves alcohol to a person under the age of 21 may be liable for any damage, injury or death that results from the drunk driving of that person under the age of 21.

Furthermore, while establishments may be shielded from civil liability, they may be held criminally responsible for overserving an already drunk customer. California Business and Professions Code section 25602(a) provides, ““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.”

While AB 2121 may not currently rise to the level of a Dram Shop Law, if passed, it may not be much longer until California resorts to Dram Shop Laws to try and reduce drunk driving.

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