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When is a Bar Guilty of Serving Too Much to Drink

A man goes to a bar, gets drunk, keeps drinking, wobbles outside, gets in his car, tries to drive home, and causes an accident. Who’s guilty?

The obvious answer is the man who did the drinking and driving, and that answer is, of course, right, but is he the only guilty party?

In some cases, the answer is no. In fact, the bar where the man was drinking may also be liable.

And not just bars, according to Goings Law Firm, LLC. Restaurants, nightclubs, and country clubs can also be found liable should they continue to serve someone after they are clearly drunk. In fact, even a private citizen can be found guilty if they served someone under the legal drinking age and that person went on to cause damage elsewhere.

While this law can seem controversial (some feel it is solely a matter of personal responsibility), the fact is that many states recognize that there is a burden of responsibility on anyone who is serving alcohol to make sure those being served are not too drunk.

What that means is that anyone who appears to have gone well over the legal limit should be cut off from alcohol and should be monitored to make sure they don’t drive. In practice, this can be tricky, especially in places like nightclubs, but the responsibility remains nonetheless.

The fact a bar can be found liable in no way exonerates the person who did the drinking and driving, but it can mean that the bar must pay damages to anyone or anything harmed after that person left the premises.

The key to this is negligence. It has to be proved that the person serving the drinks was negligent in continuing to serve alcohol to the inebriated person. What that means is it has to be proven that the bartender could clearly see the person had had too much and continued to serve them anyway.

This line is obviously somewhat subjective, although there are often clear cases where the person was extremely over the limit and continued to be served, making it easier to prove negligence. In 2011, a case was tried in New Jersey over a motorcyclist who had a .198 blood alcohol level, or about two and a half times the legal limit. In that case, there was a great deal of clear negligence since the drinker must have shown clear signs of inebriation while continuing to get service.

As mentioned before, the fact a bartender can get in trouble for doing their job can seem unreasonable to some, but it is important to remember that while a bartender is certainly kept busy, that does not mean they don’t have a responsibility. They are serving a drug, and like anyone who administers or sells drugs, there is a need to use care in dispensing them.

Considered in that way, it’s obvious that while the person drinking is still primarily responsible for there actions, some responsibility must also fall on those who had the ability to stop them and did not.

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