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Court Discusses Comparative Negligence and Florida’s Dram Shop Laws

Drunk driving accidents often cause catastrophic injuries. In some cases, the entity that served the intoxicated driver may be held liable for the harm ultimately sustained. Other factors can impact liability as well. For example, in many cases, the defense will argue that the plaintiff was comparatively negligent and, therefore their damages should be reduced. Recently, a Florida court discussed the interplay of comparative negligence and Florida’s dram shop laws in a case in which an intoxicated underage driver struck an intoxicated underage pedestrian. If you were injured in a drunk driving accident, you might be owed damages, and you should speak to an experienced Florida car accident attorney as soon as possible.

Facts of the Case

It is reported that the injured party, who was intoxicated and underage, was walking across the street when she was struck by a truck driven by a person who was also intoxicated and underage. The injured party suffered critical harm in the accident. The plaintiff, her guardian, subsequently filed claims against the bars that served the injured party and the driver. Default judgment was entered against the bar that served the injured party, and the court ruled that the bar that served the driver could not argue comparative negligence. Following the trial, the jury awarded the plaintiff close to $29 million. The bar that served the driver appealed.

Comparative Negligence and Florida’s Dram Shop Laws

On appeal, the appellate court ruled that the bar that served the driver should have been able to argue comparative negligence as a defense. Thus, it reversed the trial court ruling and remanded the case for further proceedings.

Under Florida’s dram shop law, a party that serves an underage person alcohol will be held derivatively liable for any harm the underage person subsequently causes while intoxicated. The Florida courts have clarified that the dram shop laws did not create a new cause of action and did not create an intentional tort. Instead, parties will be liable for negligence for violating the dram shop laws.

The comparative fault law, on the other hand, states that in a negligence action, contributory fault charged to the injured party diminishes their damages proportionately. Comparative fault is only available as a defense to negligence claims, however. In the subject case, as the claims against the bar that served the driver sounded in negligence, the appellate court found that it should have been permitted to introduce the comparative fault of the injured party as a defense.

Talk to a Trusted Florida Car Accident Attorney

Drunk driving collisions frequently cause devastating life-long harm, and people that recklessly cause such accidents should be held accountable. If you were hurt in a crash caused by an intoxicated driver, it is in your best interest to speak to an attorney about what damages you may be owed. The trusted Florida car accident attorneys of Cardoso Law, PLLC, can advise you of your rights and help you to seek the maximum amount of damages recoverable under the law. You can reach us through our form online or by calling us at  (850) 466-2073 to set up a meeting.

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