Florida Jury Awards $11 Million In Dram Shop Lawsuit

Last year, this blog discussed the unfortunate death of two Brevard County teens Rachel Price and Jamaree Cook, who were killed when Price’s vehicle collided with a pickup truck being operated an intoxicated driver. In response to that incident, our Florida car accident attorneys examined a State law allowing a person that has been injured or killed in a car accident caused by an intoxicated driver to recover punitive as well as compensatory damages.

That law, codified at Section 768.72 of The Florida Statutes, states that plaintiffs in civil actions are precluded from recovering punitive damages unless there is a “reasonable showing by evidence” that provides a “reasonable basis for recovery of such damages.” This standard is more specifically delineated in Florida’s pattern jury instructions which state that punitive damages may be warranted if a jury finds by the greater weight of the evidence that the defendant’s conduct that caused the injury to the plaintiff was:

  1. Gross and flagrant as to show a reckless disregard of human life or of the safety of persons;
  2. Showed such an entire lack of care that the defendant must have been consciously indifferent to the consequences;
  3. Showed an entire lack of care that the defendant must have wantonly or recklessly disregarded the safety and welfare of the public; and
  4. Showed such reckless indifference to the rights of others as to be equivalent to an intentional violation of those rights.

Further, the Florida Supreme Court has held thatpunitive damages are appropriate in cases where “negligence is coupled with intoxication.” Ingram v. Pettit (1976), 340 So. 2d 922.

Last month, an Okeechobee, Florida jury went a little further, awarding a Sanford man over $11 million in damages in a civil lawsuit against the Okeechobee Eagles Aerie #4137. In Wilde v. Okeechobee Aerie 4137, the plaintiff alleged that the Eagles’ bartenders “grossly overserved” a 72-year-old patron, to the point that he was severely intoxicated.

The plaintiff further alleged that he was permanently disabled after the patron left the club in his truck, and ended up crashing into the motorcyclist. By the time a blood draw was conducted on the driver, his blood-alcohol level measured 0.22 percent, nearly three times the legal limit. The driver was not insured and had no assets, so the motorcyclist sued the Eagle’s club, alleging that the bartenders were negligent in serving the patron so much alcohol.

Florida Statute 768.125 states that a person who either unlawfully sells or furnishes alcohol to a minor who later crashes a car and hurts someone can be held liable. However, this liability may be extended to any person or entity that continues to serve of-age patrons despite knowledge that the person is habitually addicted to alcohol.

The motor vehicle accident attorneys of Gerson & Schwartz, P.A. have extensive experience representing individuals who have been injured by negligent or reckless drivers. If you or someone you know has been injured in automobile accident, contact the Florida car accident attorneys of Gerson & Schwartz, P.A. today.


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