Homework Help

Should a drinking establishment be held responsible if a driver is involved in an...

user profile pic

Noelle Thompson | High School Teacher | eNotes Employee

Posted August 17, 2012 at 7:02 PM via web

dislike 1 like
Should a drinking establishment be held responsible if a driver is involved in an accident caused by drunk driving?

 

According to statistics reported by Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), almost half of all drivers who were killed in crashes and tested positive for drugs also had alcohol in their systems. The highest percentage of fatalities occurred in the 21-24 age group. Many of these people who get behind the wheel are consuming more than the legal limit at bars and restaurants. Should these establishments be held responsible if a driver is involved in an accident, or even if the driver is pulled over and found to have a blood alcohol level exceeding the legal limit? Would such legislation reduce the rates of fatalities?

11 Answers | Add Yours

user profile pic

bullgatortail | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

Posted August 17, 2012 at 7:48 PM (Answer #2)

dislike 0 like

I think there is a limit to the liability that drinking establishments should face in such a situation. We don't hold supermarkets responsible for the obesity problem we have in the United States; the problem in both cases lies with the individual who chooses to eat or drink to excess. Most watering holes do maintain drinking limits, though it is generally up to the waitress or bartender to use their discretion on when to say when. It is unfair for bartenders to be every patron's "brother's keeper," and the blame should be placed on the drinker who is too weak to know when to stop, not the busy bartender who can't possibly keep track of every customer's amount of consumption.

user profile pic

portd | (Level 3) Associate Educator

Posted August 17, 2012 at 8:19 PM (Answer #3)

dislike 0 like

Kudos to Post #2...let's give a big round of applause to personal responsibility and accountability in this world. More and more, people want to refrain from taking responsibility for their actions and pass that responsibility on to others. In this way, they can continue with their destructive, anti-social behavior, and then wash their hands of it when dire consequences result. They like to play now, but let others 'pay' later for their foolish actions.

Most bars, taverns, and restaurants are careful to cut people off if it is apparent they're intoxicated or at the tipping point as a tippler. However, it's difficult for them to stop an individual getting in a car and taking off down the road - they can try, but in the end the responsibility is with the person abusing alcohol.

Of course, there are always those groups and individuals who claim personal freedoms are being infringed upon. They go ballistic when they're denied anything, even when the actions taken are to help them from becoming a fatality or injury statistic.

Whatever Happened to Personal Responsibility?

user profile pic

Kristen Lentz | Middle School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted August 18, 2012 at 12:01 AM (Answer #4)

dislike 0 like

My husband was a waiter in college in a restaurant that served alcohol.  He was told by his superiors that he was personally responsible for accidents that occurred if he knowingly continued to serve an intoxicated patron.  It really scared him, and I know a few times he got shorted on tips because he cut people off.

I understand the concept of personal responsibility, but I think an establishment should be responsible for training its employees and setting standards to ensure its patrons aren't served to the point of extreme intoxication.  There is a big grey area there, but I do have a problem with a bartender continuing to serve someone who is visibly incapacitated in hopes of getting a bigger tip. 

If an establishment has measures in place to protect its patrons, then I don't think they should be held responsible for any harm that might come from someone having numerous drinks at a table, then walking to the bar to get even drunker.  Obviously a bar doesn't want to have to have a Breathalyzer test to determine someone's blood alchohol content before the get another drink, but they can make an effort to ensure safety.  Restaurants and bars cannot protect against every scenario, but they should be aware of and concerned with the power of their merchandise.

user profile pic

pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted August 18, 2012 at 12:40 AM (Answer #5)

dislike 0 like

I agree with the "no" side on this topic.  If anything, I would support having ignition locks on all cars that would require people to "breathalyze" themselves before driving.  My main reason for saying this is that this requirement would really burden bars and restaurants and the individual servers.  There is no real objective way to determine simply by looking at a patron if he or she is too drunk to keep drinking.  Therefore, I do not think that it is fair to put the burden of this responsibility on the drinking establishments.

http://www.enotes.com/driving-under-influence-dui-reference/driving-under-influence-dui

user profile pic

brettd | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

Posted August 18, 2012 at 1:40 AM (Answer #6)

dislike 0 like

I have worked in establishments that sold alcohol and worked drinks, and am in the process of opening a winery, and I'm going to take the other side of the argument from the above posts, and say yes, establishments should be held responsible, to a degree.

Post #2 makes the comparison between this issue and grocery stores with obesity, which I think is a false equivalency.  Obesity is a long term problem, and the food which causes it is not a drug like alcohol.  Obesity does not cause inherent danger to public safety like drunk driving.

Part of taking the job or starting the business that sells alcohol is accepting personal responsibility that comes with that job or business.  By choosing to sell alcohol, you have agreed to operate by a higher standard.  Not everyone who drinks acts responsibly, unfortunately, yet the public still has a reasonable expectation to be safe, so the businesses/employees need to step in and fill the gap.

One caveat, that being that it is sometimes difficult or impossible to tell who is impaired (vs. intoxicated) and who isn't.  Businesses and employees should be able to demonstrate due diligence and procedures to prevent overservice whenever possible.  To hold them liable, I believe negligence in observing those procedures should have to be proven.  Training of employees in recognizing intoxication could also be helpful.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mothers_Against_Drunk_Driving

user profile pic

wannam | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator

Posted August 20, 2012 at 7:12 PM (Answer #7)

dislike 0 like

There are some legal responsibilities already in place.  I believe a drinking establishment can be held liable if they knowingly allow an intoxicated person to drive and/or if they continue to serve an intoxicated person.  I don't think the law should be extended beyond that.  We are all responsible for ourselves.  We cannot expect a bar tender to keep track of patrons like a baby sitter would keep track of children.  The bar tender doesn't necessarily know how a person arrived nor how they will be getting home.  They cannot control what another person does.  It is also not always an easy thing to tell what a person's alcohol limits are.  One person might be able to consume far less alcohol than another before they become intoxicated.  There isn't a set number of drinks for each patron.  Bars should try to be responsible but they cannot be held liable for each customer's actions.

http://www.wral.com/news/local/story/4784337/

user profile pic

clairewait | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted August 22, 2012 at 3:23 PM (Answer #8)

dislike 0 like

I think there is a limit to the liability that drinking establishments should face in such a situation. We don't hold supermarkets responsible for the obesity problem we have in the United States; the problem in both cases lies with the individual who chooses to eat or drink to excess. Most watering holes do maintain drinking limits, though it is generally up to the waitress or bartender to use their discretion on when to say when. It is unfair for bartenders to be every patron's "brother's keeper," and the blame should be placed on the drinker who is too weak to know when to stop, not the busy bartender who can't possibly keep track of every customer's amount of consumption.

we don't hold supermarkets responsible for the obesity epidemic, but there are those who are trying to hold fast food restaurants responsible.

I agree with you.  The more we take responsibility away from the decision-making individual (who is affecting himself and others), the more license people will take to continue in irresponsible behavior.  We have become a society of passing the blame to anyone except ourselves, and this attitude is the root of many of our biggest societal problems.

If there is one lesson that has failed to be grasped it is the idea that humans need to take responsibility for themselves and consider how their actions affect others.  Always. 

user profile pic

trophyhunter1 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

Posted August 29, 2012 at 12:31 AM (Answer #9)

dislike 0 like
Although it is easy to blame the drinking establishment, no one held a gun to the person's head to enter the bar and order the drinks. Also, the bartender is too busy working to probably be aware of everyone's state of intoxication. People are to blame for how much alcohol they consume. It seems like everyone is looking to blame someone to make a quick buck out of a lawsuit. Example, my child is overweight, so I will sue a fast food restaurant. Never, does anyone say, the parent needs to establish proper nutritional guidelines for their child. Or, the cigarette companies are to blame for someone's emphysema or lung cancer, when, no one forced them to smoke in the first place. Therefore,I have to say the brunt of the blame belongs on the person doing the drinking.
user profile pic

bor | Valedictorian

Posted August 31, 2012 at 4:28 PM (Answer #10)

dislike 0 like

I see nothing wrong with potential civil liability. As with any case, the burden of proof rests with the Plaintiff, here are some notes;

 

The majority of states allow for recovery when the defendant knew (or should have known) (foreseeability; my term) the customer was intoxicated. Some states have attempted to address this problem through more exacting tests. Missouri's recently revised dram shop law requires proof that the party demonstrates "significantly uncoordinated physical action or significant physical dysfunction." In Texas, a patron must be so obviously intoxicated that he presents a clear danger to himself and others.

On the other hand, in Massachusetts, the state's highest court has held that a bar could be sued where a patron exhibiting "drunk, loud and vulgar" behavior was determined to be "visibly intoxicated," Cimino v. The Milford Keg, Inc., 385 Mass. 323 (1981). In Cimino, evidence showed that the intoxicated patron had been served six or more White Russians by the Milford Keg bar. The patron left the bar, arriving at another bar about fifteen minutes later "totally drunk," holding a White Russian. The next bar that he went to refused to serve him. Shortly thereafter, the intoxicated patron lost control of his car, drove on a sidewalk, and killed a pedestrian.

 

The law has always held a presumption that conduct which enables another's injury may/can be Tortious in and of itself.

 

  

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dram_shop

user profile pic

K.P.L. Hardison | College Teacher | eNotes Employee

Posted October 7, 2012 at 10:51 PM (Answer #11)

dislike 0 like

In a very real sense, this question is already answered by legislated morality (again, we can, must and do legislate morality). At least in the US, bars have legal responsibility to limit drinks to prevent excessive drunkenness, as has been pointed by others. Obviously, legally, bar keepers do have legal and moral responsibility for their side of the coin in the joint action of alcohol consumption. To my mind, this is just and right. And while we may not hold supermarkets responsible for obesity, we can and sometimes do hold them legally and financially responsible if mislabeling on in-store product results in a life threatening anaphylactic reaction. No one would contest the eater's right in this case to hold the store responsible because: there were US laws in place to safeguard the eater and the store failed to adhere to and follow that (those) laws and uphold their end of the social contract in a joint action. There is much more to this question than "If I choose to drink, I am prepared to take full and unmitigated responsibility for what comes of it." No one would condone such an attitude in the hypothetical case of the anaphylactic reaction (by definition potentially fatal), yet we are prepared to condone it, legal strictures notwithstanding, because alcohol carries connotations of vice and addiction.

user profile pic

cookie-gurl | Student, Grade 9 | eNoter

Posted October 15, 2012 at 9:54 PM (Answer #12)

dislike 0 like

no because its not there fault if the person is an idiot. yes they sold them the drink but thats how they make money.

Join to answer this question

Join a community of thousands of dedicated teachers and students.

Join eNotes