A bar that kept serving a drunk patron should be liable for the death of a ten-year-old girl caused when the inebriated patron left the bar and took the wheel of his car and crashed into the dead girl’s family car, CCL lawyer John Vail told Maryland’s highest court yesterday.  In so arguing, Vail asked the court to adopt dram shop liability, something that Maryland law does not currently provide.

The Dogfish Head Ale House served at least twenty drinks to Michael Eaton, cutting him off once but then re-opening his tab, before he left the bar and, three miles away, slammed into a car carrying Jazimen Warr and her family.  Jazimen was killed and the other family members were injured.  Eaton was traveling at least 88 miles per hour in a 55 mph zone and was later imprisoned for vehicular homicide.

Vail acknowledged that twice before, the last time in 1981, the court had refused to impose dram shop liability.  He told the court that developments in decisions in 1992, and again in 2009, had effectively had overruled the prior decisions. 

An active bench peppered Vail with questions regarding how broadly or narrowly liability might be imposed and about its effects on Maryland’s small businesses.  Vail noted that social science reliably could predict that imposing such liability would save 15 to 25 lives per year in Maryland.

The case is Warr v. JMGM, LLC.  A decision is expected by July.

Coverage by the Maryland Daily Record can be found here.