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Fatal Maryland DUI crash prompts look into bars' liability

Dram shop liability is an area of the law in which bars, taverns or other similar establishments that serve alcohol can be held accountable on some level for the actions of their patrons. Most often, it comes into play in drunk driving cases. Currently, 44 states and Washington, D.C., have some kind of law around dram shop, but Maryland does not. That, however, may change soon.

The Maryland Court of Appeals is in the middle of hearing a case about dram shop liability. It stems from an accident that occurred in 2008 in which a girl was killed when a drunk driver rear-ended the car she was in. The driver had been served 17 beers at a local bar before getting behind the wheel. The question now, is whether the bar should be held partially responsible for not cutting him off.

Although the restaurant and bar communities do not want a law on the books, saying that it would be very difficult for them to keep track of how intoxicated their customers are. Others argue that it could keep Maryland roads safer by reducing the amount of drunk drivers. Individuals who have been charged with drunk driving may have thoughts on the situation as well.

If a restaurant continues to serve a person alcohol until they are far too drunk to drive, shouldn't they be held responsible too? Currently, all of the blame is placed on a driver if he or she is charged. But it is not difficult to imagine a scenario in which a bar could have prevented a drunk driving incident by cutting a person off. It will be interesting to see how the Court of Appeals rules on this case.

Source: CBS DC, "Md. Court Weighs Liability of Bars in DUI Cases," March 12, 2013

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