A driver ran a red light in Over-The-Rhine and struck another vehicle injuring the five passengers inside his car and the two people inside the vehicle he struck. Sadly, the driver who ran the red light did not have enough insurance to fairly compensate each of the seven injured people involved in the crash. Uninsured / underinsured automobile coverage was also limited. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) conducted an investigation which concluded a local bar was systematically serving underage and intoxicated individuals, including the at-fault driver and his passengers involved in this crash. Representing one of the injured passengers, Charlie M. Rittgers and Matt Nakajima pursued a Dram Shop action against the bar. They were the only attorneys involved in the crash to pursue the bar despite the ATF investigation.
Ohio Revised Code § 4399.18 – Ohio’s Dram Shop Act
Ohio imposes a duty on liquor permit holders to look for and identify intoxicated persons and minors and to take affirmative steps to prevent foreseeable injuries. The statute establishes elements of the claim that can be pursued against a liquor permit holder if an innocent third person is injured by a minor or a noticeably intoxicated person who becomes intoxicated by alcohol furnished to them by the liquor permit holder if the permit holder knowingly sold to an underage or knowingly sold to an already intoxicated induvial.
Knowingly Must Be Proved
In Dram Shop lawsuits, the injured person must prove the bar or restaurant acted knowingly. The law says that when considering sale to a noticeably intoxicated person, actual knowledge is required. Mere constructive knowledge is insufficient. Gressman v. McClain, 40 Ohio St.3d 359 (1988); Studer v. VFW Post 3767, 185 Ohio App.3d 691 (11th Dist.2009). But, when considering sale to a person under the age of twenty-one years, “knowingly” is interpreted more broadly, as meaning knowing or having reason to know. Lesnau v. Andate Enterprise, Inc., 93 Ohio St.3d 467 (2001). Nevertheless, strict liability is not imposed on the defendant or the defendant’s employee(s) who serve(s) an underage person because of the knowledge requirement. Campbell v. Chris’s Café, Inc., 2d Dist. Montgomery No. 05-CA-108, 2006-Ohio-4063.
Does It Matter Where the Injury Occurred?
No, regardless of whether the injury occurred on premises at the permit holder’s business or off premises at another location, the Dram Shop act still imposes liability on the permit holder if the criteria are met.
Settlement Far Greater For Rittgers Rittgers & Nakajima Client
Our client recovered money from the insurance company who insured the driver who ran the red light, she recovered money from her family’s underinsured / uninsured automobile insurance policy, and she collected the bar’s insurance policy limits which were an additional $1 million. She was the only individual of the seven who were injured in the crash to receive this compensation, in part, because no other attorney pursued the at-fault bar which knowingly served underage and intoxicated individuals.