The husband of a triathlete struck and killed by an allegedly drunk driver while jogging has filed a lawsuit naming the driver and two area bars as defendants.

beer-240x300The lawsuit alleges that not only was the driver grossly negligent in his own actions, but that a local American Legion and a pizza restaurant broke state liquor laws when they continued serving alcohol to a person who was visibly intoxicated.

The driver, now facing charges of homicide by vehicle, DUI and leaving the scene of an accident, reportedly has a long history of chronic alcohol abuse. Although third parties typically can’t be held responsible for the addictions and poor choices of others, these type of “Dram Shop Laws” allow establishments that serve alcohol to be responsible when they place profits over the safety of people.

Dram shop laws do, however, vary from state-to-state.

As our Fort Myers drunk driving accident attorneys know, Florida’s is a bit more restrictive than those in other places. For example, while Pennsylvania law allows entities to be held liable for continuing alcohol service to a person who is visibly drunk, Florida’s dram shop law only allows liability when establishments serve to someone under 21 or who is known to be habitually addicted to alcohol. This is codified in F.S. 768.125.

So our law could potentially be used in a case like this, where defendant driver was known to have long-standing problems with alcohol addiction. However, there is no provision in Florida law that allows establishments to be held responsible for continuing service of alcohol to patrons who are already drunk. There are also no state laws that prohibit outrageous “drink specials” that allow some patrons to drink excessively for very cheaply.

Still, there are plenty of situations wherein third parties may be held liable, which is why it’s important to discuss your case with an attorney as soon as possible. Although the statute of limitations on wrongful death cases in Florida is two years, waiting until the last minute is generally not a good strategy. That time is often needed to sift through the facts and determine all identifiable defendants in a case.

In the Pennsylvania case, it’s alleged the driver had at least four prior DUI convictions on his record. The lawsuit alleges driver was known as a problem drinker and consumed multiple drinks at both establishments. At one point, he returned home on his motorcycle to retrieve his car because, “He was too drunk to drive the bike.” He then reportedly went back to one or both businesses and continued to drink before leaving in his vehicle.

Decedent was jogging along the road around 6 p.m. when she was struck by defendant’s vehicle. The force of impact knocked off her shoes and sent her flying into a nearby boat house. She reportedly suffered conscious and excruciating pain before succumbing to her injuries.

Defendant fled the scene. Police later located him at the home of his mother, where she reported he was “probably drunk.” Indeed. A blood-alcohol test revealed the concentration of alcohol in his blood was nearly three times the legal limit.

Plaintiff, the decedent’s widower, is seeking more than $50,000 in damages.

If you have been a victim of a traffic accident, call Chalik & Chalik at (954) 476-1000 or 1 (800) 873-9040.

Additional Resources:
Lawsuit filed in triathlete’s death, Aug. 14, 2015, By James Halpin, Citizens Voice

More Blog Entries:
Trucking, Construction Companies Sued in Florida Teen Crash Death, Sept. 6, 2015, Fort Myers Drunk Driving Accident Lawyer Blog