SPEAK DIRECTLY WITH AN ATTORNEY NOW! (843) 900-1306

Blog

CAN BARS AND RESTAURANTS IN CHARLESTON, SC AND SUMMERVILLE, SC BE LIABLE FOR INJURIES CAUSED BY DRUNK DRIVERS? SOUTH CAROLINA 'DRAM SHOP' LAWS

Posted by Jay McMillian | Oct 02, 2017 | 0 Comments

THE MCMILLIAN LAW FIRM PROTECTING THE RIGHTS OF DUI ACCIDENT VICTIMS IN CHARLESTON, SC AND SUMMERVILLE, SC

WHAT ARE DRAM SHOP LAWS?

'Dram Shop Laws,' as they are known, are statutes and case law that have been established throughout the United States over the course of the last few decades whereas a business (most likely a bar or a restaurant), can be held liable for injuries suffered by the victim of a drunk driving accident. The theory rest upon the premise that the drunk driver was over-served at the establishment and the people serving the drunk driver knew or should have known that the drunk driver was intoxicated to a point where operating an automobile would not be safe to the public. Despite the gross intoxication of the drunk driver, the establishment kept serving him / her anyway. 

South Carolina does not have a statute establishing 'Dram Shop' liability, but the legal principle was laid out by the state Supreme Court in the opinion of Hartfield v. The Getaway Lounge & Grill, Inc. (2010). 
 
The case involved a customer who spent a night bar hopping.  One of his stops that night was at an establishment known as The Getaway Lounge & Grill. The customer stayed at the bar for approximately two and a half hours. The owner of The Getaway testified at the trial level that despite being at the bar for 2.5 hours, the customer did not appear intoxicated.  The customer did stop at another bar after leaving The Gateway Lounge but it was not clear if he drank more alcohol at this stop. 
 
Later that night, the customer drove his vehicle across the center line of a roadway and struck plaintiff Hartfield's car.  The customer died in the crash. Later that night, the Coroner determined from a blood sample taken from the deceased drunk driver that he had a blood alcohol content level of .212. At the time this was over double the legal limit. Today, this would be nearly 3 times the legal limit. 
 

The McMillian Law Firm is known for compassionate and effective legal representation. Call us now at (843) 900-1306 or use the online form to schedule your free no-obligation case evaluation today.

SOUTH CAROLINA SUPREME COURT CREATES 'DRAM SHOP' REMEDIES

 
South Carolina does not have a Dram Shop Act enacted by statute, so the South Carolina Supreme Court used criminal statutes to judicially create the 'Dram Shop' protection mechanism in South Carolina. Chief Justice Jean Toal stated, “because South Carolina does not have a Dram Shop Act, our civil remedy arises out of criminal statutes.” First of all it is illegal in South Carolina to  “knowingly” serve alcohol to any person who is intoxicated.  Secondly, the deceased customer was deemed to have been well over the legal limit for BAC to operate a motor vehicle. The Supreme Court of South Carolina drew a line from the act of the customer to the act of the establishment and decided that, when considered in sum, these two criminal violations warranted the creation of a civil remedy in the matter. 
 
Therefore, in accordance with the Supreme Court opinion in Gateway Lounge, there appears to be three necessary elements to show that liability can be imputed upon a business owner for injuries sustained in a drunk driving incident:
 
  • The establishment knowingly served alcohol to the customer who is in fact intoxicated; 
  • The customer operated a motor vehicle with a Blood Alcohol Content level above the legal limit;
  • Injuries were incurred by a third-party as a result of the criminal violations committed by the establishment and the customer

WHEN ARE 'DRAM SHOP' LAWS IMPORTANT?

The obvious answer here is when there are extensive damages due to the victim of a drunk driver. South Carolina statutes allow for personal injury and wrongful death claims to be levied against a drunk drunk driver. South Carolina law also allows for punitive damages for injuries caused by drunk drivers as well. 

What happens if the drunk driver is uninsured? What happens if the drunk driver has a low limit insurance policy? What if the drunk driver is killed in the accident and leaves no assets behind that can be attached to a judgment? Can the victim be truly compensated in full by their own uninsured or under-insured coverage? Dram Shop laws are another avenue where an experienced attorney can seek to recoup damages for a victim of a drunk driver. Though specific elements must be proven, Dram Shop laws may be the source that compensates the victim in full for the injuries suffered. 

THE MCMILLIAN LAW FIRM - CHARLESTON, SC AND SUMMERVILLE, SC PERSONAL INJURY ATTORNEY

Have you been injured by a drunk driver? Contact me at The McMillian Law Firm. Once you have obtained legal representation on your matter, the insurance company must cease direct contact and deal with your lawyer instead. Contact me as soon as possible so that I may conduct a site visit of the accident and begin to obtain witness statements, police reports, and all relevant materials I need to build your case towards an acceptable settlement or trial. 

It is never too early to contact me! Each and every day is a day the insurance company will try and short-change your claim I am available for home visits, hospital visits, nights and weekends, just let me know what works for you. 

If you have been involved in a car accident and live in Charleston, Mt. Pleasant, Summerville, James Island, West Ashley, Goose Creek, Moncks Corner, Johns Island, Walterboro, Folly Beach, or any of the other fine communities of the South Carolina Low Country, contact The McMillian Law Firm now!! 843-900-1306 or email at [email protected]

 

About the Author

Jay McMillian

Background I chose to build my law practice in the areas of Car Accident and Personal Injury because these areas of the law are the most accurate reflection of my values and my upbringing. Being the son of a breakfast hostess and a retired US Army Sargent turned construction worker, the values instilled upon me by my par...

Comments

There are no comments for this post. Be the first and Add your Comment below.

Leave a Comment

The McMillian Law Firm

Bio headshot

Attorney Jay McMillian operates a solo practice with an emphasis on two core principles. First, to provide competent legal advice in the areas of Auto Accident and Personal Injury Law to the people he is proudest to serve, the people of the South Carolina Low Country. Second, to provide the most personal and intimate service to each and every client and give them the attention and compassion that they deserve while going through the stress and strain of negotiating or litigating an injury claim. If you live in Charleston, Summerville, Mount Pleasant, Goose Creek, James Island, Walterboro, Moncks Corner, and you or someone you love has been injured by the negligence of another, please call Jay at The McMillian Law Firm today.

Menu