Jury Award Highlights Dram Shop Liability for DUI Crashes in New Mexico and Throughout the Nation

file0002019505419 morguefile username kconnors.jpgIn late November, a Pennsylvania jury issued a $28 million verdict against a driver and the Pittsburgh Elks Lodge No. 11 in connection with a deadly DUI collision. In September 2009, a 26-year-old Munhall man attended an event at the lodge that included unlimited food and alcohol. As part of the bash, self-serve kegs of beer were apparently provided to guests. According to witnesses, no one from the social club monitored the kegs to ensure revelers were not too intoxicated to drive.

After leaving the event, the man reportedly struck a car that was carrying four people head-on as he sped down a nearby roadway. Sadly, the collision killed one and wounded three others. The deceased woman’s boyfriend was apparently severely injured in the tragic wreck and died a few months later as a result of a pain medication overdose. According to local police, the man’s blood alcohol level following the crash measured 0.226. He later pleaded guilty to drunken driving and is currently serving a two- to four-year prison sentence.

At trial, the estate of the decedents argued that the driver and the Elks Lodge both committed negligent acts that led to the fatal wreck. After listening to testimony from 43 witnesses over the course of about two weeks, the jury issued its $28 million verdict. One victim’s estate received $7 million while the other’s family was awarded $8.3 million. Jurors awarded the accident survivors a combined sum of approximately $1.4 million. According to jurors, the drunk driver was 60 percent responsible for the fatal DUI accident while the Elks Lodge was 40 percent at-fault. Interestingly, the jury ordered the social club to pay $10 million in punitive damages to be split between the plaintiffs.

This case is significant because it sends a strong message to would-be drunk drivers and the restaurants, social clubs, bars, and other so-called dram shops that serve such individuals. Punitive damages like those awarded by the jury in this case are designed to punish a person or business for egregious conduct. In New Mexico, such damages are generally limited to intentional acts, but may be collected from a drunken driver. A quality attorney can explain your rights in more detail.

Please contact the Fine Law Firm if you were injured or a close relative was killed by a drunk driver anywhere in New Mexico. Our hardworking Rio Rancho drunken driving accident lawyers have more than 100 years of combined experience helping the victims of devastating motor-vehicle crashes. To schedule a free, confidential case evaluation with a capable advocate, give the lawyers at the Fine Law Firm a call at (505) 889-3463 or contact us through our website.

More Blog Posts:

Honda Recalls Nearly 350,000 Dangerously Designed Minivans in New Mexico and Nationwide, New Mexico Personal Injury Lawyer Blog, November 9, 2013
Three Negligent Malaga Wrecks Claim Several Lives in Less Than One Week, New Mexico Personal Injury Lawyer Blog, October 21, 2013
Additional Resources:

Jury returns $28 million verdict to victims of deadly car crash, by Adam Brandolph, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

Jury returns $28 million verdict in drunken crash after West Mifflin Elks Lodge event, by Paula Reed Ward, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Photo credit: kconnors, morgueFile