Dram Shop Liability for Personal Injury

- Samuel Kane

Alcohol intoxication is a common cause of personal injury arising from vehicular accidents in the U.S. In 2014, around 4,586 motorcyclists were killed in accidents, and according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), there are more intoxicated motorcycle riders in fatal crashes than intoxicated car drivers.

New Mexico Dram Shop Law

In an effort to reduce road accidents, New Mexico has dram shop laws that may hold an alcohol provider liable for damages caused by a drunken patron under certain conditions:

  1. The establishment such as a bar, restaurant or tavern, must have sold alcohol to an already intoxicated patron
  2. The patron’s intoxication was already reasonably apparent
  3. The vendor or bartender knew from the circumstances that the patron was already intoxicated at the time

Social Host Liability for Injured Third Parties

New Mexico also has a social host liability clause which makes a person or host liable for serving alcohol to an intoxicated guest, if the intoxicated guest causes damages or injures another upon leaving the host’s premises.

Proving Cause of Accident

Establishing the alcohol server’s liability for personal injuries is a crucial process in a suit for damages. In a recent case, the Supreme Court ruled that when the parties raise the sole issue of causation of a motorcycle accident involving an intoxicated motorcyclist, the district court cannot grant summary judgment and forego trial on the merits of the case.

The ruling stemmed from a case against a defendant establishment that served a deceased motorcyclist alcohol allegedly to the point of intoxication prior to the accident. The plaintiff was riding with the decedent when the decedent’s motorcycle crashed into a van, causing the plaintiff’s severe injuries.

The plaintiff presented the deposition testimony of an accident reconstruction expert who stated that the decedent would have been able to stop his motorcycle, but his level of intoxication prevented him from noticing the other vehicle.

The testimony also included an alternative statement that a sober motorcyclist would not have been able to avoid the accident. This prompted the defendant to move for summary judgment, arguing that the alleged over-serving of alcohol to the motorcyclist was not the cause of the accident resulting in plaintiff’s injuries.

The district court granted summary judgment, which decision was affirmed by the appeals court.

Vehicular accidents can be complex cases, requiring the experience of a seasoned personal injury attorney for presenting evidence following the rules of court. If you or a loved one is involved in an accident, it’s best to speak to an experienced personal injury attorney immediately.

In Las Cruces, New Mexico, the Law Offices of Samuel I. Kane has years of personal injury experience, and has helped clients recover compensation arising from accidents. We invite you to call us today at (575) 526-5263 for a free consultation.