In Minnesota, victims of drunk drivers or their surviving relatives can sometimes hold the bar, restaurant, or other licensed liquor vendor responsible for their injuries. Recently, an Olmstead County judge did just that, by awarding the victims of a drunk driver a $15 million dollar verdict against a drunk driver and the three bars that sold him alcohol after he was already obviously intoxicated. Read more to learn how this local news illustrates some important factors in Minnesota personal injury law.
A Series Of Bad Decisions That Lead To A Disaster
Gerald Mohs started out with no intention of getting behind the wheel of his car on the day of the accident. He even brought along his wife as a designated driver. However, after drinking heavily at the Treasure Island Resort and Casino, Mohs and his wife headed off to The Tipsy Turtle for more drinks. Despite his increasingly obvious state of intoxication, which included him slurring his words and trying to enter the women’s restroom, the bartender continued to serve him. Selling alcohol to someone who is obviously intoxicated is considered an illegal sale.
Leaving his wife behind, Mohs drove off with their car and proceeded to purchase more drinks at two more establishments: the North Star Bar and the Wicked Moose Bar and Grill before a bartender finally cut him off. Mohs got back in his vehicle and promptly turned the wrong way down a four lane highway. He then crashed into another vehicle, killing a 9-year-old boy, paralyzing a 7-year-old boy, and permanently injuring the woman driving the vehicle.
Because Mohs wasn’t obviously drunk at the casino, Treasure Island doesn’t bear any financial liability for the crash. The other three bars, however, couldn’t make the same claim. They all fall subject to Minnesota’s dram shop laws, which means that they share responsibility for the crash and the financial losses to the victims with Mohs, even though he was the actual driver.
Minnesota’s Shared Fault Rules Govern Each Party’s Liability
When determining how to compensate victims in personal injury and wrongful death claims, Minnesota follows a type of rule known as modified comparative negligence. When more than one party is at fault for the accident—even if that includes the plaintiff—the financial liability for the damages is divided up according to how much the court feels that each party is responsible. As long as the plaintiff was less than 50% responsible for the accident, he or she can still collect the remainder of the settlement from the defendants.
In this particular case, the plaintiffs were entirely without fault. While 50% of the blame was assigned to Mohs, it’s unlikely that the victims will be able to recover much from him. That makes it particularly important that the other 50% of damages is divided up among the remaining defendants. As businesses, they are more likely to have the insurance to cover their share of the damages.
Cases like this point out the need to have an experienced attorney who can help you with a complex personal injury claim that involves multiple defendants. For more information or to discuss your possible case, contact us as soon as possible.