A lawsuit has been filed in Wyoming designed to challenge the State Supreme Court’s ruling in 2003 that a bar owner is not responsible for the behavior of his customers. There was a fatal accident last year where a driver was in the wrong lane and collided with another car, killing its two occupants, himself, and his two passengers.
That driver was found to have a blood alcohol level of 0.16 percent, which is twice the legal limit of 0.08 percent. He had spent time that evening in a Big Horn County saloon owned by Doug and Denny Freier.
Wyoming law allows a bar owner to serve customers who appear to be intoxicated already and does not hold them responsible for anything that customer does later on. The lawyer bringing this suit, one Pat Crank in Cheyenne, stated:
- “We really think it’s time to try to reduce this carnage that’s occurring on our highways.”
He noted that the Wyoming legislature has made open alcohol containers illegal and has tightened the penalties for drunk driving. He considers it time to also remove the protection of bar owners.
On the Other Side of This Issue
The Freiers regard individuals as being responsible for their own behavior. They don’t believe that bar owners should have to babysit their adult customers — what is the age limit for, if not to restrict alcohol consumption to adults? And are not adults legally held responsible for their own actions in other contexts such as keeping their premises safe for visitors or using products according to the product instructions? Why not hold them responsible for their drunken behavior?
The Wyoming State Liquor Association also supports Wyoming’s current law. The executive director of that association notes that if the law is overturned, every bar owner would have increased insurance premiums and he stated this week:
- “Essentially loosening these laws doesn’t cure any problems, except acting as an economic development device for trial attorneys.”
There are two sides to every lawsuit and time will tell how this one plays out. Car accidents are caused by many factors besides drunk driving.
If you have been injured in a car accident, truck accident, or motorcycle accident, and would like to know more about your legal options, please contact our personal injury attorneys today for a free case evaluation.