Consider the following scenario: A patron, let’s call him Dana, enters a bar. He chooses to sit at the counter where there’s a video poker machine. Dana knows he will get free drinks as long as he is playing the game. The bar keeps serving him alcohol, even as he is staggering and slurring his words, because he is still putting money into the poker machine. Finally, the patron runs out of money. That’s when the patron decides to go home. He’s visibly drunk. He gets into his car. As he is driving home, he runs a red light and crashes into and kills Jo, a wife and mother just leaving her night shift.
Can Jo’s family sue the bar for continuing to serve alcohol to Dana even after he is obviously drunk? In Nevada, the answer is generally no. However, there are limited circumstances were a bar may be held responsible for a car accident in Las Vegas involving a drunk driver.
The laws governing whether sellers of alcohol can be held responsible when their customers get drunk and causes a car accident are called “dram shop laws.” While other states permit such liability, the Nevada Supreme Court has historically refused to recognize it. The Court refused to recognize an alcohol seller’s liability for a drunk driving accident even if the alcohol seller violated laws, such as by selling alcohol to a minor. See Yoscovitch v. Wasson, 645 P.2d 975, 976 (Nev. 1982) (holding that a motorcycle passenger injured due to a collision with an intoxicated minor driver has no claim against the convenience store that sold the alcohol to the minor); Van Cleave v. Kietz-Mill Minit Mart, 633 P.2d 1220, 1222 (Nev. 1981) (finding a convenience store was not liable for selling alcohol to a minor who later caused a drunk driving accident). In 1995, the Nevada legislature expressly prohibited it by enacting Section 41.1305 of the Nevada Revised Statutes (NRS).
In 2007, the Nevada legislature carved an exception to the liability of sellers of alcohol. It permitted holding those who provide alcohol to underaged persons liable if those persons cause an alcohol-related injury or death. It should be noted that the above exception is not limited to sellers of alcohol. It includes those who provide alcohol to underaged persons for free. This encompasses those who provide alcohol to minors at parties or other events. It also encompasses those who permit alcohol to be served to underaged persons on their property.
The statute now reads as follows:
NRS § 41.1305. Liability of person who serves, sells or furnishes alcoholic beverages for damages caused as a result of consumption of alcoholic beverage: No liability if person served is 21 years of age or older; liability in certain circumstances if person served is under 21 years of age; exception to liability; damages, attorney’s fees and costs.
1. A person who serves, sells or otherwise furnishes an alcoholic beverage to another person who is 21 years of age or older is not liable in a civil action for any damages caused by the person to whom the alcoholic beverage was served, sold or furnished as a result of the consumption of the alcoholic beverage.
2. Except as otherwise provided in this section, a person who:
(a) Knowingly serves, sells or otherwise furnishes an alcoholic beverage to an underage person; or
(b) Knowingly allows an underage person to consume an alcoholic beverage on premises or in a conveyance belonging to the person or over which the person has control,
is liable in a civil action for any damages caused by the underage person as a result of the consumption of the alcoholic beverage.
3. The liability created pursuant to subsection 2 does not apply to a person who is licensed to serve, sell or furnish alcoholic beverages or to a person who is an employee or agent of such a person for any act or failure to act that occurs during the course of business or employment and any such act or failure to act may not be used to establish proximate cause in a civil action and does not constitute negligence per se.
4. A person who prevails in an action brought pursuant to subsection 2 may recover the person’s actual damages, attorney’s fees and costs and any punitive damages that the facts may warrant.
5. As used in this section, “underage person” means a person who is less than 21 years of age.
We know how devastating it could be to lose someone you love or be severely injured in a car accident caused by a drunk driver. We’ve seen clients go through the grieving process or endure the economic hardship of medical bills and losing a job because of injuries caused by a drunk driver. We also know the hardships personally. The car accident attorneysat D.R. Patti & Associates have also loved ones who have been victims of drunk drivers.
If you or a loved one have been injured by a drunk driver or in a car accident in Las Vegas, the experienced car accident attorneys in Las Vegas at D.R. Patti & Associates can help you. With over 50 years of combined experience in personal injury cases, we know the law and have the skills to get you the compensation you deserve.