According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention every single day, almost 30 people in the United States die in motor vehicle crashes that involve an alcohol-impaired driver. This amounts to one death every 51 minutes. The annual cost of alcohol-related crashes totals more than $59 billion.
Clearly drivers that are intoxicated endanger not only themselves but every man, woman and child on the road. When such a driver causes injury or death in Arkansas, our state law allows the victims to seek, not only compensation for their losses, but punitive damages in order to punish the wrongdoer and, more importantly, send a message to the entire community that Arkansans will not tolerate drunk drivers killing and injuring our families.
Recognizing the danger to our communities posed by drunk drivers, in 1994 the Arkansas Supreme Court first decided to allow lawsuits against liquor stores and bars that illegally sell alcohol to minors, who then cause harm to themselves or others when intoxicated. Our firm was proud to have represented the parents of sixteen year old Charles Shannon who tragically died after such an illegal sale. After the Shannon case was dismissed for failing to state a cause of action, we challenged the dismissal in our Supreme Court and successfully convinced the Court to change the law so that they were able to hold the liquor store accountable.
Eventually, based in part on the Shannon case, our state legislature set down specific statutes whereby victims of drunk driving can sue not only the drunk driver but, under certain circumstances, the seller of the alcohol. Victims can now sue the liquor store or bar if intoxication resulted in injury and death under two circumstances:
(1) When the alcohol is sold to a minor, and the intoxicated minor injures or kills themselves or someone else as a result.
(2) When the alcohol is sold to an adult (a person of legal age to purchase the alcohol) after that person is visibly intoxicated, and that person thereafter injures, kills or causes property damage to another due to the intoxication. An important distinction here is that a sale to a person that can legally purchase the alcohol does not give rise to a cause of action when they injure or kill themselves due to their own intoxication…unlike in the instance of a minor to whom the sale was illegally made.
Evidence of such sales sometimes does not last long. Security camera video at liquor stores and bars will often record over itself after a few days. Was there a sales receipt in the drunk driver’s vehicle? Tragically, drunk drivers sometimes do not live to tell us where and under what circumstances they got the alcohol. This is why it is always important to move quickly to gather evidence of the sale. You can’t fight back and send a message, unless you know who to fight!
Mulkey Law Firm will proudly continue to fight for families whose lives have been changed forever due to drunk driving.