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Appellate Opinion Discusses Florida’s Reverse Dram Shop Liability Statute

Earlier this month, an appellate court issued a written opinion in a Florida drunk driving case requiring the court to interpret the state’s reverse dram shop liability statute. The court was tasked with determining whether the plaintiff presented sufficient evidence to survive the defendant’s motion for summary judgment. Ultimately, the court concluded that the plaintiff’s evidence was sufficient, and it ordered the case to proceed toward trial or settlement negotiations.

Florida’s Reverse Dram Shop Statute

In Florida, establishments that serve alcoholic beverages are generally not liable for any accidents caused by their customers once they leave the premises. However, under the Reverse Dram Shop Liability statute, a plaintiff may proceed with a case against the serving establishment if they can show that the establishment served alcohol to a patron whom they knew to be “habitually addicted to alcohol.”

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was the surviving family member of a woman who was killed by a drunk driver. At the time of the accident, the driver’s blood-alcohol content was .302, which is nearly four times the legal limit of .08. Prior to getting into the car, the driver was at the defendant country club.

Evidence showed that the driver had been to the club 70 or 80 times over the past three years. Each time, he would order two strong whiskey drinks before beginning his game. During the game, he would order several more drinks. Afterwards, he often went to the bar and had the bartender pour him another strong drink. On the day of the accident, the driver was served at least four strong whiskey cocktails.

Prior to trial, the country club filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing that the plaintiff presented no evidence that the country club or its employees knew that the driver had an alcohol addiction. The trial court agreed and dismissed the case. The plaintiff appealed.

The appellate court reviewed the evidence presented at trial and found that the plaintiff did present sufficient evidence to survive the summary judgment challenge. The court noted that “serving an individual a substantial number of drinks on multiple occasions would be circumstantial evidence to be considered by the jury in determining whether the vendor knew that the person was a habitual drunkard.” As a result, the court ordered that the plaintiff’s wrongful death lawsuit be permitted to proceed toward trial or settlement negotiations.

Have You Been a Victim of a Florida Drunk Driving Accident?

If you or a loved one has recently been injured in a South Florida car accident related to drunk driving, you may be entitled to monetary compensation. The dedicated Miami personal injury attorneys at the law firm of Cecere Santana have extensive experience holding drunk drivers accountable for their actions. We have a proven track record of success across South Florida, including in Fort Lauderdale, Hollywood, Sunrise, Coral Springs, Pembroke Pines, Miami, Palm Beach, Fort Myers, and Naples. Call 800-753-5529 to schedule a free consultation with an attorney today.

More Blog Posts:

Boating Accidents in South Florida, Cecere Santana Injury Lawyers Blog, published June 1, 2017.

Florida Children Exposed to Toxic Gas at Indoor Pool, Cecere Santana Injury Lawyers Blog, published July 7, 2017.

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