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Lucas Oil vendor not entitled to summary judgment in dram shop case

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It should be up to the trial court or a jury to determine whether a vendor in Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis should be held responsible for serving alcohol to a man who later hit two children while driving home after a game.

Trenton Gaff was intoxicated when he hit 12-year-olds Tierra Rae Pierson and January Canada with his vehicle as they walked along the side of a road around 6 p.m. Gaff had consumed alcohol before attending an Indianapolis Colts game, where he also drank alcohol, and then consumed more alcohol after the game before driving home. His blood-alcohol content was 0.200; he later pleaded guilty to Class B felony operating a motor vehicle with a BAC of 0.15 or greater causing death. Pierson died as a result of the impact.

Both girls’ parents filed lawsuits alleging that Centerplate, the vendor at Lucas Oil that sold alcoholic beverages to Gaff, negligently failed to restrict the sale of alcohol to visibly intoxicated patrons, including Gaff. It is unknown who actually sold Gaff the alcohol because volunteers from nonprofits serve alcohol at the game in exchange for a cut of the profits. The trial court granted Centerplate’s motion for summary judgment, concluding there was no evidence that a Centerplate employee or designee served Gaff when he was visibly intoxicated and that the alcohol provided at the game was the proximate cause of the accident.

In a combined appeal, the plaintiffs argued that, although the identity of the server is not known at this time, a reasonable inference may be drawn that Gaff would have exhibited visible signs of intoxication by the time he purchased beer from a Centerplate agent inside the stadium. And, as the sole source of alcohol sales inside the stadium, Centerplate is responsible for the actions of its agents, and the designated evidence allows an inference that Centerplate, through its agents, had knowledge Gaff was intoxicated when served.

“The designated record could be said to support one of several scenarios, that is, Gaff drank before and during the game to the point where he would have exhibited signs of intoxication observable by the stadium volunteer selling him beer; Gaff drank to excess only after leaving the stadium; or Gaff was intoxicated inside the stadium but did not exhibit visible signs of intoxication,” Judge L. Mark Bailey wrote. “Ultimately, it is the role of the fact-finder, and not the court in summary judgment proceedings, to determine issues of credibility or relative weight of the evidence – for example, whether self-reporting of alcohol consumption was inaccurate or an expert opinion based upon a toxicology report was flawed. Too, even though Gaff reportedly drank in different venues, it is the role of the fact-finder to determine whether any one drink was served to Gaff by someone knowing him to be visibly intoxicated.”

The appellate court also rejected Centerplate’s claims that no liability can ensue because no particular server to Gaff has been identified. To do so would circumvent public policy associated with the Dram Shop Act, Bailey wrote in Tierra Rae Pierson, a Minor, Deceased, by her next friend and parent, Betina Pierson, and Betina Pierson, Individually, and Ryan Pierson, Individually v. Service America Corporation, et al., 49A02-1307-CT-561.
 

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  1. I work with some older lawyers in the 70s, 80s, and they are sharp as tacks compared to the foggy minded, undisciplined, inexperienced, listless & aimless "youths" being churned out by the diploma mill law schools by the tens of thousands. A client is generally lucky to land a lawyer who has decided to stay in practice a long time. Young people shouldn't kid themselves. Experience is golden especially in something like law. When you start out as a new lawyer you are about as powerful as a babe in the cradle. Whereas the silver halo of age usually crowns someone who can strike like thunder.

  2. YES I WENT THROUGH THIS BEFORE IN A DIFFERENT SITUATION WITH MY YOUNGEST SON PEOPLE NEED TO LEAVE US ALONE WITH DCS IF WE ARE NOT HURTING OR NEGLECT OUR CHILDREN WHY ARE THEY EVEN CALLED OUT AND THE PEOPLE MAKING FALSE REPORTS NEED TO GO TO JAIL AND HAVE A CLASS D FELONY ON THERE RECORD TO SEE HOW IT FEELS. I WENT THREW ALOT WHEN HE WAS TAKEN WHAT ELSE DOES THESE SCHOOL WANT ME TO SERVE 25 YEARS TO LIFE ON LIES THERE TELLING OR EVEN LE SAME THING LIED TO THE COUNTY PROSECUTOR JUST SO I WOULD GET ARRESTED AND GET TIME HE THOUGHT AND IT TURNED OUT I DID WHAT I HAD TO DO NOT PROUD OF WHAT HAPPEN AND SHOULD KNOW ABOUT SEEKING MEDICAL ATTENTION FOR MY CHILD I AM DISABLED AND SICK OF GETTING TREATED BADLY HOW WOULD THEY LIKE IT IF I CALLED APS ON THEM FOR A CHANGE THEN THEY CAN COME AND ARREST THEM RIGHT OUT OF THE SCHOOL. NOW WE ARE HOMELESS AND THE CHILDREN ARE STAYING WITH A RELATIVE AND GUARDIAN AND THE SCHOOL WON'T LET THEM GO TO SCHOOL THERE BUT WANT THEM TO GO TO SCHOOL WHERE BULLYING IS ALLOWED REAL SMART THINKING ON A SCHOOL STAFF.

  3. Family court judges never fail to surprise me with their irrational thinking. First of all any man who abuses his wife is not fit to be a parent. A man who can't control his anger should not be allowed around his child unsupervised period. Just because he's never been convicted of abusing his child doesn't mean he won't and maybe he hasn't but a man that has such poor judgement and control is not fit to parent without oversight - only a moron would think otherwise. Secondly, why should the mother have to pay? He's the one who made the poor decisions to abuse and he should be the one to pay the price - monetarily and otherwise. Yes it's sad that the little girl may be deprived of her father, but really what kind of father is he - the one that abuses her mother the one that can't even step up and do what's necessary on his own instead the abused mother is to pay for him???? What is this Judge thinking? Another example of how this world rewards bad behavior and punishes those who do right. Way to go Judge - NOT.

  4. Right on. Legalize it. We can take billions away from the drug cartels and help reduce violence in central America and more unwanted illegal immigration all in one fell swoop. cut taxes on the savings from needless incarcerations. On and stop eroding our fourth amendment freedom or whatever's left of it.

  5. "...a switch from crop production to hog production "does not constitute a significant change."??? REALLY?!?! Any judge that cannot see a significant difference between a plant and an animal needs to find another line of work.

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