Rhode Island Case of Man Hit and Killed by Drunk Driver After Visiting 5 Bars Settles for $6.1 Million

RI Trial Report: Adam R. Satin, Personal Injury Attorney, Lubin & Meyer PC
Type of Action: Wrongful Death / Dram Shop / General Liability

The decedent was 21 years old when he died after being hit by an intoxicated driver. The driver was operating an automobile provided to him by his employer, which was a co-defendant. Over approximately 12 hours preceding the accident, the driver went to 5 different bars, which were also named defendants.

The driver picked up a friend around 1:00 pm to go to lunch. They ended up at Bar #1 where the driver consumed a sandwich, three glasses of wine and split at least three vodka "shots" with his friend, "KB" before heading to Bar #2. The shots were not purchased, but were given to them for free by the bartender. At Bar #2, each consumed one or two drinks before heading to Bar #3. At Bar #3, a computer receipt reflected a credit card purchase by the driver of 2 gin drinks and one Bud Light. At Bar #4, the driver drank two 16 oz. beers before leaving to drive KB's sister home. The driver and KB returned to Bar #4 where the driver had two more 16 oz. beers. They left Bar #4 and, on the walk to the car, KB observed the driver vomit on the street. They waited 10 minutes and proceeded on to Bar #5. While at Bar #5, KB observed the driver acting silly and not making sense when he spoke. She observed that he drank at least three gin and tonics. KB felt his drunkenness had peaked while they were at Bar #5.

Around 1:00 am, Bar #5 closed. KB noticed the driver to be slurring his speech and offered to drive. The driver declined. Just prior to hitting the decedent, KB yelled at the driver that "there's people!" However, the driver continued in the direction of the sidewalk where the decedent was walking. The force of the impact cause the decedent to be thrown under the right front end of the car. He was pronounced dead shortly after.

Several hours after the accident, at 6:00 am, the driver's blood alcohol content was found to be .22. The plaintiff was prepared to offer expert testimony from the fields of Toxicology, Emergency Medicine, Accident Reconstruction and Alcohol Service Industry Management/Training. The 5 bars defended on the basis that there was no evidence the driver was visually intoxicated to the bartenders at any given time. However, plaintiff's experts opined that, based upon scientific extrapolation of what the blood alcohol level would have been at various points in time, the driver was more likely than not visually impaired at all 5 bars before being served more alcohol. The summary judgment motions were denied and the claims were settled with the assistance of a mediator.

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