A lawsuit was filed in Cook County Circuit Court against the Ruth Chris Steakhouse of South Barrington, Illinois, placing blame on the restaurant/bar for a drunk driving accident resulting in serious injuries.
Plaintiff Tyler Heyward alleges that Amber Honaker, the mother of his 9-month-old son, was served “copious amounts” of alcohol at a Christmas party at the defendant’s place of business. She left at approximately 8 p.m., drove on the wrong side of the road, and collided head-on with another vehicle, resulting in severe and permanent injuries requiring surgery, intensive physical therapy and recuperation.
The lawsuit filed on behalf of the child alleges that he has lost his main source of support. Plaintiffs are seeking damages of more than $100,000.
What is the Dram Shop Act?
Most states have dram shop laws, which contend that hotels, restaurants, bars, liquor stores, or other hosts serving alcohol have a legal responsibility for patrons who cause harm – even after they have left the premises. These laws were designed to protect the public from the hazards of serving alcohol to minors and intoxicated patrons. The exact statutes vary from state to state, however.
Here in New York State, the Dram Shop Act allows injured plaintiffs to sue anyone who “unlawfully” sold alcohol to patrons. Yet, it is up to the courts to determine what constitutes as “unlawful.” Obviously, it is unlawful to serve alcohol to someone under the age of 21. But how can one measure or verify the case for “visible intoxication”?
There is also the question of who is legally allowed to seek compensation. In neighboring New Jersey, patrons who injure themselves while drunk may sue the establishment that served them, although juries often reduce awards based on the plaintiff’s own liability. New York State does not allow people to sue for their own injuries under the Dram Shop law, with the exception of injuries resulting in wrongful death – in which case, the person’s dependents may sue for loss of parental consortium.
How do plaintiffs win Dram Shop lawsuits?
To recover damages under dram shop law, plaintiffs must prove the following:
- A person’s intoxication directly led to injuries or damages.
- The defendant served alcohol to a “visibly” intoxicated person or minor who caused the injuries or damages.
Individuals who have been physically or financially harmed by a drunk driver should contact a personal injury attorney to explore their legal options.
Case evaluations are free and legal services are paid out of winning settlements or awards. In New York, the statute of limitations for filing suit is three years from the date of the accident.
Edelman, Krasin & Jaye advocate on behalf of victims of drunk driving crashes in Long Island and NYC. To speak with one of our attorneys, please call 1-800-469-7429.