Michigan Bar Liability and Car Accidents
Drinking and driving is still a major problem in Michigan. In 2020, 326 people were killed due to drunk drivers on Michigan roadways. Under Michigan law, bars, restaurants and other retail establishments can be held liable for serving alcohol to a visibly intoxicated person. Individuals who are injured by a visibly intoxicated person can file a lawsuit for compensation against the retail establishment under the Michigan Dram Shop Law.
What is a Typical Dram Shop Case?
Most dram shop cases in Michigan involve a person who is overserved alcohol at a bar and then causes a drunk driving accident. Although the driver can be held liable for the injuries he or she causes, the bar or restaurant that last served the individual can also be held responsible for additional compensation. The Michigan Dram Shop Law is contained in MCL 436.1801.
Dram shop cases in Michigan are a very specific type of case and require the expertise and knowledge of a Michigan dram shop lawyer and law firm. There are strict notice requirements and a shorter statute of limitations for these cases as explained in more detail below.
In addition, proving liability claims on the part of the bar or retail establishment is not as easy as you think. A simple blood-alcohol test showing the driver was drunk at the time of the crash and had just come from the defendant bar is often not enough to prove liability.
Can A Bar Be Responsible for Serving Alcohol to a Minor?
Yes. Under the law, a retail store, bar, restaurant, night club or retail establishment cannot sell, furnish or give alcoholic beverages to a minor. If a person is injured by reason of the unlawful selling, giving or furnishing of alcohol to the minor, and that unlawful sale is a proximate cause of the injury, that injured person can seek compensation from the person or retail establishment who served the minor alcohol.
However, bars and retail establishments that serve alcohol can use the “Fake ID” defense. Under the law, proof that the defendant bar demanded and was shown a Michigan driver’s license that appeared to be genuine and showed that the minor as at least 21 years-old is a defense to a lawsuit under the Dram Shop Act.
Some of the laws and rules pertaining to serving alcohol to a minor can be found under MCL 436.1701.
What is Social Host Liability?
Social host liability is the liability of a person other than a retail licensee – like a bar or restaurant – for the unlawful serving of alcoholic beverages to minors. There is no social host liability for providing alcohol to an adult.
A typical social host liability case involves a parent who knowingly serves or allows minors to drink at their home. Then one of the minors gets behind the wheel and causes a horrible crash while drunk driving. Because there is a “zero tolerance” rule in Michigan, even if a minor is not legally drunk (blood-alcohol level is below .08), the social host can still be held responsible for the crash.
To be successful in a social host liability case, a plaintiff must prove that (1) the defendant knowingly furnished alcohol to a person younger than age 21 and (2) the minor’s consumption of the alcohol caused injury or death. Both an injured third person or the minor can recover under a social host theory.
How Do You Prove A Person is an Allegedly Intoxicated Person?
It is not easy to prove the person was an allegedly intoxicated person, and therefore establish liability on the part of the bar or restaurant. Under Reed v. Breton, 475 Mich 531, 718 NW2d 770 (2006), the plaintiff must establish visible intoxication by “positive, unequivocal, strong and credible evidence.”
A blood-alcohol test that demonstrates a person was legally drunk is not enough! Instead, eye-witnesses are typically required to testify the person was visibly intoxicated at the time of being serviced alcohol.
Identifying eyewitnesses is no easy task. And getting individuals to testify that the person was visibly intoxicated can be very difficult, especially if they are friends or co-workers of the defendant.
What is the Statute of Limitations for a Dram Shop Lawsuit in Michigan?
In Michigan, the injured person or his or her family has two (2) years from the date of the injury to file a lawsuit against the negligent bar, restaurant or retail licensee. This is called the statute of limitations. If a lawsuit is not filed within the 2-year deadline, then the injured individual cannot seek compensation from the at-fault defendant.
Is there a Notice Requirement under the Michigan Dram Shop Law?
Yes. Under the law, a plaintiff must give written notice to all defendants within 120 days after entering into an attorney-client relationship for the purpose of pursuing compensation under the Dram Shop Act. If a plaintiff fails to do this, the defendant who did not receive notice can be dismissed from the lawsuit unless there was not information at that time to determine the retail establishment that may be liable.
The Name and Retain Rule:
According to the Dram Shop Law, a lawsuit filed against a bar, restaurant or retail licensee cannot occur unless the minor or alleged intoxicated person is also name as a defendant in the same lawsuit. Further, that person must be retained in the action until the litigation is concluded.
The reason for this rule to prevent any type of collusion between a plaintiff and the drunk driver during the pendency of an existing lawsuit against the bar. However, the “name and retain” requirement can create problems for the plaintiff because defendant bars or night clubs have the entire litigation to point all blame at the intoxicated driver instead of their own bad decisions.
In addition, the “name and retain” rule prevents plaintiffs from settling against the at-fault driver earlier in a case if they wish to continue the lawsuit against the bar or retail licensee.
What Is Included in Dram Shop Settlements?
Like an auto accident lawsuit, people injured due to the negligence of a bar or restaurant can seek compensation for their injuries and harms. The types of damages that people are entitled to from the insurance company include:
- Payment of past and future medical expenses
- Lost wages and loss of earning capacity
- Physical and mental pain and suffering
- Emotional distress, anxiety and humiliation
- Money damages under the Wrongful Death Act
Contact a Detroit and Michigan Dram Shop Lawyer for Your Case
The Lee Steinberg Law Firm, P.C. has an experienced and aggressive team of Michigan dram shop attorneys. We understand the pain and anger that comes from a drunk driving crash. It can create untold financial hardship and emotional turmoil for the injured person, family and friends.
If you believe a bar, restaurant, liquor store or some other retail establishment was responsible for causing the injuries, it is important to act quickly and contact a Michigan dram shop law firm before vital evidence is lost.
Call 1-800-LEE-FREE (1-800-533-3733) for a free legal consultation. We are here to answer your questions and help. And we never charge a penny until we win your case.