Louisiana Immunity Statute Prevents Injured Man from Recovering from Bar that Served Drunk Driver

In Louisiana, the law says that, when an intoxicated person caused an accident that injures another person, that intoxicated person — not the business that served alcohol — is responsible for the harm caused. The Legislature has enacted a statute that immunizes servers of alcohol for civil liability in almost all cases. That rule allowed a bar to escape liability recently for the serious injuries one man suffered when a bar patron crashed his car into the victim’s bicycle. The bar succeeded, and the injured man did not, because the Louisiana Court of Appeal ruled that the case simply did not fit into any of the narrow exceptions of the state’s “anti-dram shop” statute.

The unsuccessful lawsuit stemmed from a fatal accident occurring in 2012. On Jan. 21, Mr. Branch had been drinking at a Baton Rouge bar called “The Bulldog.” Branch eventually got behind the wheel and crashed into bicyclists Mr. Morris and Mr. Crowson at around 8:45 at night. Branch drove his car over the lower half of Morris’s body, crushing his legs, hips and pelvis. Crowson’s injuries were even worse; emergency personnel pronounced him dead at the scene.

Branch’s blood alcohol level was .307, or almost four times the legal limit. Morris sued the bar, alleging that the conduct of its staff “affirmatively increased the peril” to Branch and subsequently led to the fatal accident. Bar staff served Branch numerous drinks, even after he became visibly intoxicated. In response, the bar asked the court to throw out the case, based upon Louisiana’s anti-dram shop law. The trial court agreed.

Morris fared no better on appeal. In 1986, the Legislature enacted Louisiana’s anti-dram shop law. The law stated that the consumption of alcoholic beverages, not the act of providing those drinks, is the “proximate cause of any injury … inflicted by an intoxicated person,” and those who sell or serve alcohol cannot be held liable for the damage caused by those to whom they provided intoxicating beverages. This law effectively insulates bars from civil liability, with only a few exceptions.

With only those few exceptions recognized by the law, the court had no choice but to uphold the dismissal. The court stated that it was “contrained to hold” that the bar was immune from liability, based upon the “clear language” of the statute. The statute does contain certain exceptions, but Morris did not claim in his lawsuit that any of those exceptions were present in his case. The exceptions recognized by the statute generally extend to serving underage people, forcing another person to consume alcohol or misrepresenting that a drink is non-alcoholic when it is really an intoxicating beverage.

Being injured in an auto accident can take a significant toll on you and your family physically, emotionally and financially. One way to lessen the load on yourself and your family is to retain capable legal counsel to help you with the legal aspects of your injuries. Consult the Louisiana injury attorneys at the Cardone Law Firm. Our skilled, experienced attorneys can help you make sense of the legal processes involved and represent you in obtaining the most compensation that the law allows.

For your confidential consultation contact us online or phone Cardone at 504-522-3333.

More Blog Posts:

What to Do If You’re Injured By a Drunk Driver, Louisiana Injury Lawyers Blog, Dec. 20, 2013
Family of Slain Louisiana Woman Settles With Restaurant Chain for Over-serving Intoxicated Man, Louisiana Injury Lawyers Blog, Dec. 20, 2013

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