North Carolina Supreme Court Upholds Dismissal of Dram Shop Liability Act in Fatal Alcohol Poisoning Claim

Establishments that sell alcohol have a duty under North Carolina law to ensure that they do not serve alcohol to intoxicated patrons. The laws also extend to social hosts that serve alcohol at a party or gathering.  These laws are called dram shop liability laws and they are important to understand if you were involved in an accident with a drunk driver. Although personal injury accidents happen in many different ways, drunk driving car accidents are one of the more common situations. The impact of a drunk driving accident can be devastating for the victim. These accidents routinely happen at high speed or in extremely dangerous ways such as head-on collisions. Raleigh DUI accident lawyer Jason M. Burton is prepared to help you analyze your potential legal rights following an unnecessary accident with a drunk driver.

A recent case analyzed the application of North Carolina’s dram shop liability statute. The laws generally hold restaurants, bars, hotels, and other retail establishments that serve alcohol liable for serving an intoxicated patron who later causes an accident in North Carolina. The court was asked to analyze whether the plaintiff in the case was contributorily negligent. This is a legal term used to describe instances where the plaintiff was negligent when the accident happened, and the jury or judge determines that this negligence contributed to the plaintiff’s own injuries.

In the case, the defendants operated a hotel that featured a bar. A couple checked into the hotel and went to the bar where they began drinking. During the evening, the couple ordered a total of 24 alcoholic beverages and the wife consumed at least ten of these. She was so inebriated at the conclusion of the evening that staff members at the hotel were required to assist her to her room using a wheelchair to transport her. When the husband woke up the next morning, his wife was unresponsive and later determined to have died. The cause of death was listed as alcohol poisoning.

The decedent’s estate filed a claim against the hotel asserting claims for negligence under the North Carolina dram shop laws. The defendants filed a motion to dismiss and the lower court granted it. The plaintiff appealed the lower court’s decision and the appellate court reversed it. The defendant then appealed on the grounds that there was sufficient evidence in the case to show that the woman acted negligently by consuming so many alcoholic beverages. The Supreme Court concluded that the lower court made the right decision in granting the motion to dismiss and finding that the decedent’s estate had not pled enough facts to show that the hotel was ultimately liable.

If you or a loved one was injured in a drunk driving accident you may be entitled to compensation. Drunk driving accidents can include other types of activity like boating or biking. At Burton Law Firm, our lead attorney offers a free consultation to discuss your DUI accident lawsuit situation and whether he may be able to assist you in securing the compensation that you deserve. Call him today at 833-623-0042 or contact him online to get started.