Car Accident Caused by Drunk Driver: New Jersey Jury Awarded $14,207,563.50 and Entered a Verdict Against a Bar – But Would This Be the Case in Florida?
A drunk driver caused a car accident that killed a woman and permanently injured her husband while they were lawfully operating their motorcycle. The drunk driver, Steven Evans, was leaving a bar called Rack’s Bar and Grill after celebrating his 21st birthday. Although he fled the scene after the car accident, he was later apprehended and his blood alcohol level was determined to be .10. The wife and passenger of the motorcycle, Mary Elenbark, died a week after the car accident from her injuries. She was only 44 years old at the time of her death. A New Jersey jury entered a verdict against the bar and Evans and awarded $14,207,563.50.
The law in New Jersey allowed for a cause of action and large recovery by George Elenbark and his wife’s estate against Steven Evans and the bar where he was consuming alcohol immediately before the car accident – Rack’s Bar and Grill. The jury ultimately found Rack’s Bar and Grill 75% liable and Evans 25% liable for the car accident. However, this may not have been the case if this car accident happened in Florida. In states such as Florida, the law is not as strict on bar and restaurant owners as the laws in other states. It can be difficult to sue a bar or restaurant for the acts of its drunk patrons who cause a car accident. In fact, the general rule in Florida is that one who provides alcohol to a person of lawful age is not liable for damages caused by the intoxication of the person. There are only two exceptions to this rule that would provide recovery for injury or damage caused by or resulting from the intoxication of such a person. The first exception is for a person who willfully and unlawfully sells or furnishes alcoholic beverages to a person who is not of lawful drinking age. The second exception is for one who knowingly serves a person habitually addicted to the use of any or all alcoholic beverages.
Since Florida’s laws regarding the liability of bars or restaurants in cases where their patron causes a car accident can make it difficult to seek compensation, it’s important to seek the advice of an experienced attorney if you are injured in a motor vehicle accident like this one. The personal injury attorneys at Perenich, Caulfield, Avril & Noyes have been helping clients in the Tampa Bay area since 1955.