Social Liability for Alcohol-Related Injuries and Deaths
In September 2017, Spencer Hight got drunk and then walked into his estranged wife’s house in Plano, Texas, where a group of people were watching football. He killed eight people before being taken down by police. The families of three of the victims recently filed a lawsuit against the bar that Hight patronized twice that day. Hight’s blood alcohol concentration was .33 percent when he shot those people, and according to the lawsuit, the bar is partly responsible for their deaths.
Some states have laws making social hosts responsible when their guests get drunk and injure someone. Similarly, many states have dram shop laws holding bars, restaurants and clubs responsible for over-serving. Usually such laws are meant to prevent drunk driving. But can they also apply to mass shootings or other alcohol-related injuries and deaths?
Florida’s Social Liability Law
Florida doesn’t have any social liability laws, and Florida’s dram shop laws are limited in scope. A person who sells or furnishes alcohol is only liable for injuries caused when:
- The person willfully sells or furnishes alcohol to someone who is underage, or
- The person knowingly serves alcohol to someone who is habitually addicted.
While these restrictions usually apply to drunk driving accidents, there is nothing in the law that says they only apply to drunk driving. So theoretically, a bar could be liable for selling alcohol to someone who then engages in a mass shooting. However, in Florida, the wrongdoer must either be underage or habitually addicted. And the bar or other establishment must be aware that the person is underage or habitually addicted. That could be a difficult standard to meet.
Of course, this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to hold the shop — or a social host — civilly liable for alcohol-related injuries. But you’ll have to argue your case using normal negligence laws.
Filing a Personal Injury or Wrongful Death Lawsuit in Florida
The first thing you should do after any accident is seek medical attention. If possible, get contact information from witnesses and keep any documentation about the accident. Then reach out to an experienced personal injury attorney who can explain your legal options. Remember that the deadline for filing a personal injury lawsuit is four years from the date of the injury, and the deadline for filing a wrongful death lawsuit is two years from the date of the death.
Contact Us Today
Contact a Miami personal injury attorney at The Pendas Law Firm today for a free consultation if your loved one was killed, or if you were injured, by a drunk driver or in another alcohol-related incident. We will examine the facts of your case and help determine if someone’s negligence contributed to your injury or loved one’s death. You deserve compensation, including medical expenses, funeral costs, lost wages, pain and suffering, and loss of companionship.
The Pendas Law Firm also represents clients in the Fort Myers, West Palm Beach, Jacksonville, Orlando, Tampa, Fort Lauderdale, Daytona Beach and Bradenton areas.