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COA: Man’s intoxication doesn’t prevent recovery

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The Indiana Court of Appeals reversed summary judgment in favor of a bar because the trial court was incorrect in ruling that an injured man’s voluntary intoxication precluded any recovery under the Dram Shop Act.

Michael Gray sued Sandstone Bar & Grill for negligence after he drove his motorcycle and injured himself after he spent the day drinking at the bar. It’s unknown exactly how much Gray had to drink because he had bought drinks for friends and others had bought him drinks while he was at the bar.

He believed the bar was liable under the Dram Shop Act; Sandstone filed for summary judgment because it claimed its actions weren’t the proximate cause of Gray’s injuries and that he was voluntary intoxicated. It also claimed to not have actual knowledge of Gray’s intoxication.

The trial court found that genuine issues of material fact existed as to whether Sandstone had actual knowledge and whether its actions were the proximate cause of Gray’s injuries, but held that Gray’s voluntary intoxication prevented any recovery, citing public policy concerns addressed in Bailey v. State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co., 881 N.E.2d 996 (Ind. Ct. App. 2008).

The Court of Appeals first examined the Dram Shop Act and held that Indiana Code Section 7.1-5-10-15.5(c) clearly spells out that under the statute, the person who is injured is the same as the person who is voluntarily intoxicated.

“(A)n adult consumer who is voluntarily intoxicated may assert a claim of damages for personal injury against the provider who furnished an alcoholic beverage that contributed to the consumer’s voluntary intoxication if: (1) the provider had actual knowledge that the consumer was visibly intoxicated at the time the beverage was furnished, and (2) if the consumer’s intoxication was a proximate cause of the injury or damage alleged,” wrote Judge Paul Mathias in Michael Gray v. D & G, Inc., d/b/a The Sandstone, No. 29A04-1002-CT-113.

Bailey only addressed the common-law tort of negligent entrustment, not the interpretation of the Dram Shop Act, noted Judge Mathias. The act clearly allows for recovery by someone who is voluntarily intoxicated, as long as the provider of the alcohol had actual knowledge that the person was visibly intoxicated at the time they provided the drink and the person’s intoxication was the proximate cause of the injury.

The trial court judge had concerns regarding public policy that might allow an intoxicated person to recover for injuries that were caused by his own voluntary intoxication, but the General Assembly has made the decision that even those who are voluntarily drunk may, under certain circumstances, assert a claim for damages against the person who served them. To hold otherwise would effectively render subsection (c) of the Dram Shop Act a nullity, wrote Judge Mathias.

The appellate court remanded for further proceedings.

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  • shill???
    Delayed movement like hitting a three year old post to change the discussion from the House or Senate investigating why adjudicated shyster and felon William Conour, Esq., had a license while small potato non felons Dixon, Wemhoff, Rocchio, Ogden, Derek Farmer and me, among others, were thoroughly investigated by the DC and while the DC could not even find the time to file annual reports on how it was prioritizing its investigations? Who is watching the watchers?
  • Legal
    I think bars should be held responsible for over serving patrons, its a responsibility of the owner to properly train servers to know when a customer is intoxicated, Im sure when you get a license to bartend your taught what signs to look for when a person has become intoxicated slurred speech, loud talking and delayed movement.

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    1. He TIL team,please zap this comment too since it was merely marking a scammer and not reflecting on the story. Thanks, happy Monday, keep up the fine work.

    2. You just need my social security number sent to your Gmail account to process then loan, right? Beware scammers indeed.

    3. The appellate court just said doctors can be sued for reporting child abuse. The most dangerous form of child abuse with the highest mortality rate of any form of child abuse (between 6% and 9% according to the below listed studies). Now doctors will be far less likely to report this form of dangerous child abuse in Indiana. If you want to know what this is, google the names Lacey Spears, Julie Conley (and look at what happened when uninformed judges returned that child against medical advice), Hope Ybarra, and Dixie Blanchard. Here is some really good reporting on what this allegation was: http://media.star-telegram.com/Munchausenmoms/ Here are the two research papers: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/0145213487900810 http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0145213403000309 25% of sibling are dead in that second study. 25%!!! Unbelievable ruling. Chilling. Wrong.

    4. Mr. Levin says that the BMV engaged in misconduct--that the BMV (or, rather, someone in the BMV) knew Indiana motorists were being overcharged fees but did nothing to correct the situation. Such misconduct, whether engaged in by one individual or by a group, is called theft (defined as knowingly or intentionally exerting unauthorized control over the property of another person with the intent to deprive the other person of the property's value or use). Theft is a crime in Indiana (as it still is in most of the civilized world). One wonders, then, why there have been no criminal prosecutions of BMV officials for this theft? Government misconduct doesn't occur in a vacuum. An individual who works for or oversees a government agency is responsible for the misconduct. In this instance, somebody (or somebodies) with the BMV, at some time, knew Indiana motorists were being overcharged. What's more, this person (or these people), even after having the error of their ways pointed out to them, did nothing to fix the problem. Instead, the overcharges continued. Thus, the taxpayers of Indiana are also on the hook for the millions of dollars in attorneys fees (for both sides; the BMV didn't see fit to avail itself of the services of a lawyer employed by the state government) that had to be spent in order to finally convince the BMV that stealing money from Indiana motorists was a bad thing. Given that the BMV official(s) responsible for this crime continued their misconduct, covered it up, and never did anything until the agency reached an agreeable settlement, it seems the statute of limitations for prosecuting these folks has not yet run. I hope our Attorney General is paying attention to this fiasco and is seriously considering prosecution. Indiana, the state that works . . . for thieves.

    5. I'm glad that attorney Carl Hayes, who represented the BMV in this case, is able to say that his client "is pleased to have resolved the issue". Everyone makes mistakes, even bureaucratic behemoths like Indiana's BMV. So to some extent we need to be forgiving of such mistakes. But when those mistakes are going to cost Indiana taxpayers millions of dollars to rectify (because neither plaintiff's counsel nor Mr. Hayes gave freely of their services, and the BMV, being a state-funded agency, relies on taxpayer dollars to pay these attorneys their fees), the agency doesn't have a right to feel "pleased to have resolved the issue". One is left wondering why the BMV feels so pleased with this resolution? The magnitude of the agency's overcharges might suggest to some that, perhaps, these errors were more than mere oversight. Could this be why the agency is so "pleased" with this resolution? Will Indiana motorists ever be assured that the culture of incompetence (if not worse) that the BMV seems to have fostered is no longer the status quo? Or will even more "overcharges" and lawsuits result? It's fairly obvious who is really "pleased to have resolved the issue", and it's not Indiana's taxpayers who are on the hook for the legal fees generated in these cases.

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