As of this past April, 37 states had laws on the books holding liquor vendors liable or partially liable for serving patrons who become intoxicated and then get in drunk driving auto accidents causing injury, death, or damages. These are called “dram shop acts” or “dram shop laws” — and Maryland is not among states with such laws in place.
This is in part why a fatal DUI car accident case out of Montgomery County, Maryland, is garnering attention.
According to media reports, in Aug. 2008, a Fairfax, Va. man was consuming drinks at the Dogfish Head Alehouse in Gaithersburg, Md. News reports state that the individual consumed a staggering 14 drinks and 2 shots — before starting a second tab. Restaurant staff reportedly served the individual 3 more beers and another shot, after which he got behind the wheel of his Land Rover. He reportedly drove south on Interstate 270 at speeds between 88 and 98 mph, crashing into a Jeep Grand Cherokee and killing a 10 year old girl sitting in the back. The child’s guardians sued the restaurant for $3.25 million in Dec. 2010.
Montgomery County Circuit Judge Eric M. Johnson is considering whether to send the lawsuit to trial, holding the Dogfish restaurant partially liable for this drunken driving crash that killed a child. The driver is serving eight years in jail with two years suspended for manslaughter.
A Baltimore County car accident injury attorney follows cases such as this one, when liability in a drunk driving accident is called into question. The judge’s move in this case has been described as “gutsy,” given Maryland has no dram shop law on the books. A Maryland news source writes that, “Maryland judges have previously ruled that creating dram shop laws should be the duty of the state legislation or appellate courts, not trial courts.”
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) writes that, “The rate of alcohol impairment among drivers involved in fatal crashes was four times higher at night than during the day (36% versus 9%).” In 2008, NHTSA reported that 11,773 people were killed in alcohol-impaired driving crashes — that’s nearly a third of all auto accident fatalities. (Source: NHTSA Traffic Safety Facts 2008 Data: Alcohol Impaired Driving.)
Maryland has seen a recent uptick in drunk-driving fatalities, after three years of numbers declining: 145 people died in Maryland drunk driver accidents in 2008, compared to 162 deaths in 2009 (Source: NHTSA Traffic Safety Facts Maryland: 2005 – 2009.) It will be interesting to see if this Montgomery County case has an impact on laws related to Maryland drunk driving accidents and vendor liability.
Related Maryland Injury Attorney Article:
Maryland Governor Aims to Curb Drunk Driving Traffic Accidents and Deaths Feb. 5, 2010
Judge to write second decision on Dogfish case: Defense argues case should not go to trial because no applicable Maryland law exists
Gazette.net : Maryland Community News Online June 29, 2011
Dogfish Head Alehouse in Gaithersburg sued for enabling drunk driving
The Baltimore Sun Dec. 16, 2010
Alcohol 101: Dram Shop Liability and Legislation: Holding Retailers Accountable for Injury and Damages
The Marin Institute