Friday, September 25, 2009

Dram Shop Act: Motorist Who Injures Intoxicated Pedestrian Can Seek Contribution from Bar

If a motorist is being sued because his car hit a careless and intoxicated pedestrian, can the motorist seek contribution from the bar which sold the pedestrian too much alcohol in violation of New York's Dram Shop Act?

In a matter of first impression the Appellate Division, Second Department, has ruled in O'Gara v. Alacci that the motorist can seek contribution from the bar based on the claim that the pedestrian left the bar in an alcohol-induced stupor and then tried to cross a highway when she was struck by a car. The decision can be found here.

Under New York's Dram Shop Act, General Obligations Law § 11-101[1], a bar owes a duty to the public not to sell alcohol to a person who is visibly intoxicated. The court reasoned that the motorist is a member of the public the Act is designed to protect, and, therefore, if the bar breached its duty when it sold alcohol to the pedestrian, the motorist can seek contribution from the bar.

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