It was the most aggravated case on the issue to ever come before Maryland’s highest court, but in the case of a motor vehicle accident involving an intoxicated driver, the bar that dispensed the drinks was held blameless.
The ruling was not surprising as the Court had to apply the facts against the standing Maryland law. While 43 states and the District of Columbia have laws that make bars somewhat liable when customers leave too drunk to drive, Maryland has no such law. Indeed, judges handed down similar holdings protecting bars against civil liability in 1951 and 1981.
What makes the case surprising are all the aggravating factors. If there ever was a case to provoke the Court to bend the rules, it was this one. First of all was the testimony about the driver’s consumption of spirits — 17 beers, several hard drinks and a shot of tequila. Despite his obvious condition, he was allowed to walk out of the bar to the parking lot and fire up his automobile. That car was to become a deadly missile when he violently crashed into the back of an SUV on Interstate 270, killing a ten-year-old girl.
What’s more, witnesses described the drunken driver as operating at what they believed to be a high rate of speed — in excess of 90 to 100 miles per hour. Adding insult to injury, the drunk made no attempt to render aid and tried to flee the scene on foot. Eventually, he was sentenced to serve eight years in jail on manslaughter charges.
However, that sanction alone was not enough closure for the child-victim’s grandparents, who were in the car at the time. They set out to sue the bar that served the deadly driver. Experts opine that after the current high court ruling, the responsibility to close the bar loophole has now definitively moved from the courts to the state’s lawmakers. A bill on target failed to make it out of committee last year.
Despite this unfortunate setback, talented personal injury attorneys will always do their best to get at least some measure of satisfaction to the survivors and victims of drunken, speeding drivers.