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Drunk driving accident may cause legal trouble for restaurant

Late last year, a young man lost his life when his car was hit by an alleged drunk driver near Charleston, South Carolina. The man responsible for this accident was an employee of a local restaurant, and was suspected to have been allowed to drink alcohol at this location after the legal closing time. While driving home after his alleged late night of drinking, he hit another car from behind; the other vehicle quickly caught fire and its driver was killed. The police report from the accident indicated that the restaurant employee was driving while intoxicated well above the legal limit.

Now, the family of the victim is pressing charges against the restaurant, claiming that it is partially responsible for the death. The charges include a wrongful death claim and bring into play the issue of dram shop liability. Dram shop liability is the legal responsibility of any person or institution that serves alcoholic beverages to be accountable for any distribution of alcohol to a person who is clearly intoxicated.

It also involves responsibility, such as in this case, for any alcohol sold outside of the legal hours for doing so. If an institution or individual is found to have acted irresponsibly or illegally in the distribution of alcohol, that person or institution could be held partially responsible for a drunk driving crash.

If the family's claim is upheld, the restaurant could be deemed partially responsible for the death. In this instance, that means it could be financially responsible for the costs associated with the wrongful death - funeral costs, loss of wages, the family's emotional suffering - as well as being forced to pay any potential punitive damages issued by the court.

Source: MSNBC, "Family sues South Carolina restaurant for wrongful death," Mar. 3, 2012

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