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Court Holds Bar Responsible

Dateline: 09/29/99

A ruling last week by the Montana Supreme Court has once again held a bar owner responsible for damages caused by a patron because he continued to serve him alcohol knowing he was already intoxicated.

The decision upheld a $750,000 damage award against the owner of the Town Tavern in Great Falls, MT paid to one patron of the bar who was injured as a result of the actions of another customer.

Court records show that employees of the Tavern continued to serve alcohol to James Wells although he was obviously drunk -- slurring his words and acting belligerently. When Wells left the bar, he got behind the wheel of a vehicle and proceeded to drive through the barroom wall, injuring another patron.

Taking a Stand

The high court ruled that bar employees should have reasonably foreseen that serving alcohol to a badly intoxicated person would lead to the customer engaging in drunken behavior that would endanger other people.

The court ruling holding the bar responsible is another indication that society in general is getting fed up with drunken drivers, along with stiffer laws and penalties being imposed in many states, especially for repeat offenders.

The ruling is even more striking in light of the fact the owner of the bar made a very good case that his employees had no way to predict that Wells would get behind the wheel of a vehicle after leaving the bar.

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